Saturday, January 14, 2017

Marvin X notes on Ayodele Nzinga's play Mama at Twilight, Death by Love

Pierre Scott as Pappy, Stanley Hunt III as Son
photo Standing Rock

 Pappy and sons Kriss and Son

 Cat Brookas as Mama, Pierre Scott as Pappy
photo Standing Rock

Cat Brooks as Mama
photo Standing Rock

Ayodele Nzinga's play Mama at Twilight, Death by Love is a powerful family drama dealing with love, faith, belief, dreams and death. She has a cast of seasoned actors in our beloved social activist Cat Brooks as Mama, and seasoned actors Pierre Scott (Dad) and Stanley Hunt as Son. We also had excellent supporting actors in Noelle Guess as Tonya as and Julian Green as Kris.

 Cat Brooks as Mama and Julian Green as son Kris
photo Standing Rock

We must note the music of Sade as a liet motif or recurring musical comment on the theme. Sade's Soldier of a Love became a character and/or choral comment on the main action, constantly reinforcing the central theme of love. Nzinga grapples with love that approaches blindness and denial when the wife contracts HIV but never will admit she may have contracted it from her dope dealing, womanizing, convict husband. Her faith in him is so solid that she won't allow him to be tested. It is the daughter Tanya who finally confronts her dad with the possibility he may have contracted HIV from his frequent visits to prison. In this most poignant scene, son Chris acknowledges his gay identity and departs the household only to return after the transition of his mother. His return ends the play on a note of family unity, as in Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well! Or shall we go to Cheikh Anta Diop's theory of African tragi-comedy as the primary theme of African drama as opposed to tragedy as the major theme of Northern Cradle or European dramatic tradition. In the end, family love and unity puts Mama at Tw theilight, Death by Love in the African dramatic tradition.

As we know from her real life role as social activist against police terror, actress Cat Brooks has a powerful voice and her role as Mama revealed she can be sensitive and soft as the daughter Tanya described the feminine gender in her metaphoric delineation of male and female fruits, such as mangoes, pears, oranges, etc.

We have watched Pierre Scott perfect his acting skills in the ten-cycle plays of August Wilson that Dr. Ayodele Nzinga's Lower Bottom Playaz produced in chronological order. Alas, the Lower Bottom  Playaz is the only theatre group in the world to do Wilson's plays in chronological order. He is a seasoned actor whose every move is measured and timed to reveal character.

Now actor Stanley Hunt was born into the theatre of his Mother, Dr. Nzinga, thus he has been in theatre since childhood and knows how to measure his language, verbal and body language to reveal character.

We find it most interesting that the three children are artists: Chris, writer, Son, photographer, and Tonya,dancer. Thus, this play deals with artistic love as well. Son wins a photography grant, though his sister Tonya scolds him for focusing his camera on the breasts and behinds of her fellow dancers.  Tanya gives up her dancing to aid her mother. Kris reveals his writing and sexual identity transcends his family love until he returns home after the transition of his mother.

The set was dominated by Christian symbolism in sync with the Mama's Christian dominated religiosity that did indeed reach the pathological in her denial of her husband's possible infidelity that was challenged by Tonya as we noted above.

Noelle Guess as Tonya
photo Standing Rocki

Ayodele has written a powerful drama of North American African family life. I don't know how anyone in the Bay Area can avoid attending this drama at the Flight Deck Theatre, 1540 Broadway, downtown Oakland. The play runs from January 12 through 29, 2017.

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