Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #62

October 17th, 2008  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


(by Kay Bourne)
(Ramona as Nia)

551 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #62A no-holds-barred production of “IN THE CONTINUUM” gives an insider’s view of the plight of two Black, HIV-positive women, infected by the men who are their sexual partners. The women live continents apart: one in Zimbabwe, the other in South Central Los Angeles. Their story is “The Color Purple” of the new millennium, but told with a lot more humor. Performed by two actors playing all the roles, this high velocity account may be 90-minutes in length, but the time in the theater whirls by. You come to care deeply about Nia and Abigail as the lives they’d thought they’d be living disintegrate.

The two women are at opposite ends of the economic continuum, as well as continents away; however, the people they turn to for guidance and support equally disappoint. In the end, it seems they will need the help of the very same male who infected them to pay for the medical ordeal of being HIV-positive.

AKIBA ABAKA is a virtual Muhammad Ali in her powerful direction. She melds scenes from Zimbabwe so they float effortlessly into scenes taking place in L.A. She stages each of these moments to emit a little sting that reveals character flaws or societal cruelties manifested in communities where HIV-AIDS is regarded as shameful.

This show is UP YOU MIGHTY RACE‘s (UYMR) first entry as a resident company at the Boston Center for the Arts. Its artistic merit more than explains why the company was invited to put on their productions regularly at the South End theater complex. Abaka is also the artistic director of UYMR.

The artistry of the direction is matched by performances from an extraordinary duo of actors who shift seamlessly in and out of playing all of the people in the story. It’s hard to believe your eyes that Nia’s mother was a moment ago Nia herself, portrayed by RAMONA LISA ALEXANDER; or that the witch doctor, oops excuse me, the “traditional healer,” was a moment ago Abigail, played by LINDSEY McWHORTER.

We first see 19-year-old Nia in the bathroom of a nightclub dressed to the nines in garb she filched from Nordstrom’s where she was a clerk until she was fired for shop lifting. She is lecturing her friend Trina on the ABC’s of “getting over,” until she has a bout of vomiting. The product of foster homes and, lately, a sort of homeless shelter, she’s hitched her star to a young man who’s a high school basketball star with prospects for a college scholarship and ultimately the pro teams. She’s carrying his baby. The night out crashes to an inauspicious end when there’s gun fire, and Trina slips on some broken glass. The two young women are seen at a clinic where Nia learns she is HIV-positive.

Where Nia is brash, Abigail, a news reader at the government broadcast service in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, is genuinely self confident. Smart and ambitious, she desires all that being upwardly mobile can bring her and her family (a husband, a small son, and a baby on the way, a boy she hopes for, for after all, “What am I going to do in this world with a girl?”) In a subsequent scene a harried nurse casually gives Abigail the news that she has tested HIV-positive.

Playwrights DANAI GURIRA and NIKKOLE SALTER have written characters who win our interest, even touch our hearts; then are intentionally tossed like so much jetsam into an unruly sea of bad advice and misery. However abstract and imaginative much of the writing is, “IN THE CONTINUUM” should be taken as old fashioned social realism with the message that society needs to do better for the ‘Nia’s and Abilgail’s’ in our midst.

In the Continuum by Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter, directed by Akiba Abaka, starring Ramona Alexander and Lindsey McWhorter, through OCTOBER 18, at the Plaza Black Box Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston. Tickets information at 617-933-8600.

‘In The Continuum’ ticket information

by Kay Bourne
547 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #62One of many eye-pleasers during the ROXBURY OPEN STUDIOS weekend was a movie poster advertising “Coming Soon” starring Barack Obama. In reality, a fine arts print created by photographer HAKIM RAQUIB, the imaginative work set up to look like a movie poster deserves a close reading. For example, it notes that the movie, directed by Americans has technology by Ancestral Wiring Inc.

Raquib said that he created the art work using photo shop on his computer but after that, the print is hand pulled. The paper is archival quality and printed with pigment inks. He has signed copies of the open edition which is currently for sale at $35 in the lobby of the Plaza Theater at the BCA before the curtain times for “In the Continuum” and “Seascape” as part of a mini art bazaar of Maddu’s work. After this weekend, you can visit his studio at the African American Artists in Residency Program (AAMARP), 76 Atherton Street in Jamaica Plain. Raquib can be reached directly at hakimfoto@gmail.com.

The 10th annual Roxbury Open Studios presented the works of over 175 Roxbury artists in their studios and in group locations. There was also a guided tour of the Fort Hill/Highland Park studios led by CANDELARIA SILVA, former director of ACT Roxbury which produces the event and the open studios weekend founder. Roxbury Open Studios is produced and managed by ACT Roxbury, the cultural economic development program of Madison Park Development Corporation.

“I remember Candelaria working closely with Northeastern’s African American Studies Department to get this program underway,” notes SUSAN THOMPSON, who along with Raquib, is one of the dozen artists who make up AAMARP, a program of Northeastern University.

Thompson, a fabric artist famed for her quilts, says that she loves having visitors to her studio. “There’s value to having the public and particularly families come to see what I’ve created. They want to know: how did you do it? How long did it take? I feel, to share what I know about how artists do their work is a privilege and an honor.” Thompson can be reached at s.g.thompson@verizon.net.

A show that displays work from all the artists in the residency program is up through the holidays at AAMARP. For hours you can contact Thompson or KEITH WASHINGTON at liminalx@aol.com.

“Of course we would love to have visitors leave with a work of art they’ve purchased but we’re also glad to have them simply visit,” says GLORETTA BAYNES whose air brush painting and textile work decorates her studio. “People enjoy coming here whether they purchase or not. They feel rejuvenated, inspired.” Baynes can be reached at gloretta@gmail.com.

by Kay Bourne
(L to R): Michelle Dowd, Peter Brown, Claude Del & Emma Goodman in Zeitgeist Stage Company’s production of Edward Albee’s Seascape.
Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline Images

552 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #62BETTE DAVIS famously observed that getting old is not for sissies. Well, apparently neither is species evolution, according to EDWARDS ALBEE‘s drama about a human couple entering their golden years who have an encounter with a pair of man sized evolving lizards. “SEASCAPE,” about keepin’ on keepin’ on, is given a splendid production by ZEITGEIST STAGE COMPANY under the skillful and sensitive hand of DAVID MILLER, who directs and who did the scenic design as well.

“Seascape” won Albee a Pulitzer Prize for Drama when it was on Broadway in 1975, however, that version was cut down by an entire act from what the playwright had written. The reason given for the truncation was that the second act which takes place underwater in the lizards’ domain would have been fabulously expensive to stage.

Zeitgeist has resurrected the three-act version to great effect. For one, lighting designer JEFF ADELBERG, whose work throughout the low budget show is marvelous, has wonderfully approximated the sense of being under water with blues and greens, and murky shadows. There are also some terrifying moray eels to Adelberg’s credit. The Zeitgeist production in the Plaza Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts is an American premiere.

The play which starts off at the beach introduces a long-time married couple in their fifties, Nancy and Charles, who have diametrically opposed views on where their lives should go from here. Optimistically, Nancy, played with vim by MICHELLE DOWD, is all for taking on new horizons now that their children are grown with children of their own. She is pleased at having been given the time to “try something new.”

PETER BROWN brings a bemused reticence to her suggestions that, as example, they explore every beach of interest in the world. He’d prefer to lounge in his beach chair with a good book. Rather than argue, however, Charles typically puts off Nancy’s enthusiasms by saying “we’ll see.” Off in the distance another couple on this lonely stretch of shore seems to be approaching, then vanishes from sight.

Soon thereafter, the large reptiles put in an appearance frightening Nancy and Charles, who believe they’re under attack. As it turns out, Leslie and Sarah, imaginatively costumed by FABIAN AGUILAR from snout to snaky tails complete with a trail of protruding tooth-like growths going from tip to the top of their heads, are equally on guard.

“Seascape” is not sci fi horror, however, but a fanciful way to look existentially at whether it’s advisable to move forward in life always or at some point rest on your laurels. It’s often, really humorous too.

Relationships are also under the periscope of Albee who has made the lizards as interesting in their mating as Nancy and Charles. As Leslie, CLAUDE DEL gives a wonderful vulnerability to the lizard’s primeval machismo, while EMMA GOLDMAN gains our empathy with her fears of abandonment balanced by a daring that really outpaces her strong minded partner.

The Zeitgeist Stage Company website

by Josiah Crowley © 2008
549 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #62CARRIE FISHER’s one-woman show, WISHFUL DRINKING, truly reflects the star’s personality: smart, witty, bitter, hilarious and totally entertaining. The show, which I saw at the Hartford Stage Co. in Connecticut, now makes its way to the Huntington Theater where it opened October 10.

Born and raised in a dysfunctional neighborhood (Beverly Hills), Fisher presents an insider’s look at the Hollywood scene. Fisher’s parents are legendary movie star DEBBIE REYNOLDS and singer EDDIE FISHER; she was married to singer PAUL SIMON; and she made Hollywood history at age 19, when she first played Princess Leia in STAR WARS. Add to that, this stage memoir is also an incisive personal view of mental illness (Fisher is bi-polar) and drug addiction – Fisher explores her father’s addiction to speed and alcohol, but the actress-writer focuses more on her own drug addiction. Fisher manages to explore all this territory – some harrowing conditions – with enormous wit. This is no self-pitying, Hollywood rich kid whining, but a smart, accomplished woman who is upfront about the challenges in her life.

After an overdose that lead to rehab, Fisher fictionalized her story with the novel and film POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE (she received an Oscar nomination for her screenplay) and started a second career as a writer. Two more novels later, Fisher has a lucrative career doctoring other people’s scripts as she also continues her acting career (a recent Emmy nomination for a guest appearance on TINA FEY‘s sit-com 30 ROCK, she also appears in Boston-shot THE WOMEN, currently in release).

Fisher’s story has resulted in a show that is both outrageous in its humor, poignant in her deep affection for her daughter and mother, surprising in her continued resentment against her father and impressive in its no-holds barred portrait of some colorful Hollywood characters (such as the Hollywood barber to the stars who was also a very successful pimp). She pulls no punches and one comes away from the show impressed with both a down-to-earth lady (Fisher gives her mother all the credit) and someone who knows the score, faces her demons and is unbelievably honest about her shortcomings. She doesn’t make excuses; she makes sense. This is not a show you want to miss.

The Huntingon Theatre website

by Josiah Crowley © 2008
550 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #62THE DUCHESS is everything a costume picture should be and more. Much more. Not a big admirer of costume pictures here, so for me to rave about The Duchess speaks volumes about its high quality. Like most costume pictures with healthy budgets, this one has great sets, costumes and an overall great look.

What makes the difference is the story, one that pulls in the viewer from the get go and never stops intriguing, and as well a superlative cast. The story, based on real historical figures follows the plight of Georgiana (KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, in an accomplished performance) in her arranged marriage to the very cold, controlling, selfish Duke of Devonshire (RALPH FIENNES). He has as many mistresses as he wants, treating his wife with disdain as she continues to do her “wifely” duties with multiple pregnancies, none of them producing a treasured male heir. The ways in which the film traces their marriage, and a woman’s place (as babymaker, sexual partner) in 18th century British society, is fascinating. The Duchess – bartered into marriage by her calculating mother (an ice cold CHARLOTTE RAMPLING) – has what is considered a “good life” (the other woman seem to exist purely for the pleasure of the men in power – whether they’re servants expected to double as sexual partners for their employer or barmaids serving drinks and other favors).

Adding to the film’s power is the uniformly good acting by a professional cast that runs the spectrum from old pro (Ralph Fiennes) to established leading lady (Keira Knightley) to new faces making their names DOMINIC COOPER (Mamma Mia!, The History Boys) and Brideshead Revisited‘s leading lady, HAYLEY ATWELL.

A film that takes an incisive look at a period of history and makes the viewer care about these royal figures – more often portrayed as stick figures in films – THE DUCHESS is never soap opera-ish. Rather, it’s fine filmmaking that pulls the viewer in from the first frame ’til the last.

The Duchess official movie website

by Lisa Simmons
553 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #62Who is Ernie Davis? For many the name does not ring a bell, for those who follow football the name means endurance, passion, and integrity. The film THE EXPRESS: The Ernie Davis Story, tells of the life of this first Black Heisman Trophy winner, two-time All American running back from Syracuse University.

It is a story about a young man who was a hero to many who watched him play during a time when the country was polarized by race. He was a symbol of hope to many African Americans as he proved to America that he was the best player in College football. First in the NFL draft picks the following year, Davis went on to follow Jim Brown, his mentor, his hero who was instrumental in bringing him to the Orangemen.

Sure, THE EXPRESS could have weighed a bit more heavily on the issues of the times, focused more on the separate restrooms; lunch counters; hotels; and the dangerous places where this Syracuse team had to play football but the film focused on a man who, not known to many, had a huge impact on college sports.

What this movie does have, is a lot of football and I mean a lot of football. The foley artists (the people who add sound to the movie after it’s finished) must have been busy on this one because you hear and feel every hit on the gridiron. Beautifully shot and edited, if you like football, you’ll like this movie just for the that.

Yes this film follows along the lines of your typical adversity in sports meets tragic loss, meets great White hope but there was a lot of that in this time period. THE EXPRESS is a movie that shows positive Black role models for young kids to see today, no matter how corny or watered down this film may appear to be, it is a film about an African American sports hero that everyone needs to see.

Official Website of The Express The Movie

554 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #62 (pictured: LaSonya Gunter) Friday, OCTOBER 24 brings you closer to the hottest R&B, SOUL and JAZZ artists, so there’s no need to head out west to Springfield for the monthly ORGANIX SOUL music showcases, because starting OCTOBER 24, ORGANIX SOUL Boston debuts at the Sheraton Braintree Hotel (across from the South Shore Shopping Plaza). Doors open at 7pm, with a networking mixer, LIVE music showcase is 8 – 10pm featuring Boston recording artists, plus special guests L.B. from Kansas City, MO and LaSONYA GUNTER from Brookline, NY, followed by after-party with music by DJ Anastasie. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, available on line here or call Nia at 617-296-5976 and Robin at 617-282-1234. Free hors d’oeurves, cash bar, 21+ with ID, Proper dress required.

The ROXBURY REPERTORY THEATRE (RRT) of Roxbury Community College presents William Gibson‘s classic American drama, THE MIRACLE WORKER, the inspiring story of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. Helen is played by ten-year-old actress ELISE HANA, and Anne Sullivan is portrayed by RRT veteran JULIE DAPPER. The cast also includes actors from the Perkins School for the Blind, where Anne Sullivan once studied and taught. Deaf actresses, WHITNEY MEYER and NORA O’RILEY, who are fluent in American Sign Language, round out the diverse cast. Ten performances begin OCTOBER 16, directed by MARSHALL HUGHES, designed by MIRTA TOCCI. Call the RRT box office for information and group rates at 617-541-5380 or visit here.

THE GAMM THEATRE presents two special engagement performances of DOOR OF NO RETURN, written and performed by Providence actress NEHASSAIU deGANNES and directed by KELLI WICKE DAVIS. DOOR OF NO RETURN gives voice to Rhode experiences of immigration, displacement, enslavement and resistance from a multiplicity of perspectives by playing over a dozen characters drawn from history, personal memory and present day interviews. DOOR OF NO RETURN is full of surprises with live music. “Tremendous. All completely believable. She’s from Jamaica, then Ghana, then Cape Verde, then Canada or Senegal. DeGannes is everything in this veritable showcase. Storytelling, extended, animated and multifaceted.” – The Providence Journal. This critically acclaimed one-woman show is Saturday, OCTOBER 18 at 8pm and OCTOBER 19 at 7pm ath the Pawtucket Armory Drill Hall, 172 Exchange Street, Pawtucket, RI. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. For information, call the Gamm Theatre box office at 401-723-4266 or click here.

Join Chef DIDI EMMONS of The HALEY HOUSE BAKERY CAFE for a Community Cooking Class on Saturday, OCTOBER 18, 5-8:30pm celebrating New England fall foods. The menu for the class will be South Indian lentil dosa, a salad featuring the under-appreciated quince, local venison served with Jerusalem Artichoke gnocchi. For desert, enjoy a new variation on Didi’s classic pumpkin bread pudding. Once the food is prepared, everyone will enjoy the meal together. Recipes will be distributed, and organic beer and wine will be available for sale. The class is $40, register in advance at diana.limbach@gmail.com. Ask about reduced rates for Haley House neighbors in Roxbury and Dorchester.

Musicians STAN STRICKLAND, PETER CASSINO and FRANK GIOIA perform live this Sunday, OCTOBER 19, noon – 4pm at the Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge at a Jazz – New Age presidential campaign outreach fundraiser by Community Families and other Obama Community Supporters. Suggested donation: $10 for students w/id, $20 general public. Details here.

Every Thursday night between 7 – 10:30pm, enjoy dinner and jazz at RESTAURANT LAURA, located at 688 Columbia Road, Dorchester. The line up for the next few weeks is:
October 23 – Candida Rose (vocals), John Kordalewski (piano)
October 30 – Diane Richardson (vocals), John Kordalewski (piano) For more information call Restaurant Laura at 617-825-9004. ALSO, SAVE THE DATE: The Makanda Jazz Project, led by John Kordalewski, comes to the Dudley Branch Library auditorium NOVEMBER 8, 2 to 5 pm, free and open to the public, with world renowned trombonist Craig Harris, a former Makanda Ken McIntyre student.

THE DRUM EXPERIENCE program, “Play It, Say It, Sway It” is every Saturday 12 – 1:30pm at Dudley Branch Library, 65 Warren Street, Roxbury. “Play It” with DRUMS: Learn to play African drums, learn the history of rhythms and broaden your knowledge about drums in relation to various cultures. Taught by percussionist Salim Rahman, Open to all ages. “Say It” SPOKEN WORD: What did Zora said to Langston? Poetry, Presentation, Creative Writing, Individual Expression. Open to ages: 8 to 18, taught by Fulani Haynes. “Sway It” DANCE: Learn about meditation and dance origins from Africa and Latino countries. Taught by Ilanga, open to all ages. This program is free and open to the public. Call 617-427-8320 for further information.

Style, Substance and Sustenance will make the scene at OCTOBER 25′s ROCK THE RUNWAY FASHION SHOW at the Hyatt Regency Boston, One Avenue De LaFayette, 7:30p – 1am, hosted by Boston Fashion and Reggie B. Tickets are $15 adv./ $20 door. Models will don sleek designs from Lord and Taylor, Samuel Vartan, Lit Boutique and Cameo Couture. The night culminates with the unveiling of Reggie B’s new fashion magazine with after-hours entertainment from Club Felt. For info call 603-275-9733 or visit online here.

GUYANA IMMIGRANTS SOCIAL CLUB, Inc. presents its 29TH ANNIVERSARY DANCE with music by Sounds Inc. and Sound Vibration, on Saturday, NOVEMBER 1 at the Unity Sports and Culture Club, 10 Dunbar Ave Dorchester, $10 befpre 10:30pm, $20 after. For information call Jim at 617-921-2789. Tickets available at Nikki’s Roti, Ali’s Roti and Lorenz Island Kuisine.

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