Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Black Super Hero Magic Mama

Play #131 - Black Super Hero Magic Mama by Inda Craig-Galván

This was the first of the plays off this year's Kilroys list that I happened to get my hands on, and it was (no surprise) a compelling script. The main character Sabrina Jackson is a single black mother who must deal with the death of her 14-year-old son Tramarion at the hands of a white police officer. Overcome with grief, she retreats inward into the world of the comic book hero The Maasai Angel - a character that had been created by her son and his best friend. Of course, family and news media and pretty much everyone have opinions about how she SHOULD be reacting to her loss - what she owes to the people, the movement, etc. And all these outside influences float in and out of her comic book fantasy, where she is actually able to vanquish them in their exaggerated, villainous personas. But all of her epic triumphs lead her closer to The Entity - the big bad that she must face, whether she is ready or not. BSHMM jumps back and forth between past and present, reality and fantasy, and concrete and abstract as it paints a portrait of a mother's suffering and strength in the face of the unthinkable, yet all too common.

It's a clever and heartfelt script that reminds me a bit of Qui Nguyen's She Kills Monsters, but with a much more pointed and mournful core - one that gives voice not only to loss, but to the swirling expectations that rise up after these kinds of tragedies (and yes, the fact that these occurrences are staggeringly plural is all too clear in this play), demanding that the people who have lost the most live up to some strange social responsibility. Without giving any spoilers, at first I thought that I wanted a little bit more from the ending - more resolution, perhaps? - but as I mulled over the vivid trajectory of the play, and the battles that Sabrina/Maasai Angel wages and wins, I think that the simplicity of the ending might be the point. In the aftermath of a shooting like the one in BSHMM, there is no magic battle that solves all problems and sets things right. Eventually there is just the day to day, the going on, the heroism of living. And Craig-Galván's play leads us on this deeply personal journey with action and heart.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Taming

Play #130 - The Taming by Lauren Gunderson

While I was administering my final today for History of Drama and Theatre, I took the opportunity to finally read this play, and it was exactly the delightful revolutionary lozenge my disillusioned mind needed on yet another day when the news was giving me heart palpitations.

The Taming is written for a cast of three women - Katherine, the current Miss Georgia with some pretty wacky ideas about governance; Bianca, the liberal activist blogger; and Pat, the ambitious chief of staff to a conservative Republican senator. The names and a few syntactical nods are really all of Taming of the Shrew that we get in this play, and that's just fine with me. On the eve of the Miss America Pageant, Bianca and Pat wake up in a hotel room unable to find their phones (or pants, in Pat's case), leave the room, or even remember how they got there. These two natural enemies argue about their situation and their rabid dislike for each other, doing a great job of playing up the absurdity of extremity, rather than absurdity of any one side of the partisan divide. This exchange is made all the more delightful by what is one of my favorite stage directions since "Exit, pursued by bear": (Tense Sexy Partisan Pause). Then, enter the beauty queen to explain her plans for fixing what is broken in the great American experiment. The other two women are, of course, hesitant to engage, and after an energetic discussion and even a good ol' farcical chase, we are transported back in time (sort of) to 1787 where James Madison (played by Pat) sweats over the Constitution, which is expected in front of the Convention for a vote any day now. George Washington (played by Katherine) and Charles Pinckney (played by Bianca) offer encouragement and antagonism, respectively. And the brief cameos by Martha Washington and Dolly Madison (both played by Katherine) are a hoot. Finally, after the Founding Fathers reach an "agreement" on what is, by all admissions, a deeply imperfect, if well-intentioned, document, we are back in the present day in our same hotel room as the three women have to decide what direction they will take.

I will admit to being a particular head space right now that predisposed me to love this play, but I really did love this play. It is energetic and silly, while still offering insight and ass-kicking where they are warranted. I look forward to using monologues and scenes from this in acting classes, and I would really love to do this show... pretty much now. Though it premiered back in 2013 before our present political maelstrom had emerged, it does such a great job of speaking to the problems of entrenched partisanship, and honoring the roots of the American experiment in such a positive, sassy way.