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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Word Begins

Also see Susan's review of tick, tick ... BOOM!

The Word Begins
Steve Connell and Sekou (tha misfit)
The Word Begins, the innovative spoken-word piece now at Signature Theatre's ARK Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, is difficult to describe, but both the work and the production are hypnotic, fascinating and ultimately moving and satisfying. Some audiences may be put off by the thought of a hip-hop-infused performance touching on many of the most sensitive situations of modern American life, but the cumulative impact is well worth the effort.

The performers, Steve Connell and Sekou (tha misfit), rage on an industrial-looking set designed by Myung Hee Cho, which consists mostly of mesh panels and video screens showing many faces of contemporary life. Their purpose in the 90-minute performance is to "take back the word" from the ways language has been misused as propaganda or disinformation, spreading hate, clouding the issues it should illuminate because "to stay silent is blasphemy."

With percussive rhythms of speech and counterpoint between their voices, Connell and Sekou take as their inspiration the biblical statement: "In the beginning was the word ... and the word became flesh." As they explain, "People would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now I know that I want to be for a living," offering "antibiotic poetry" to heal the problems of society.

By turns abrasive, hilarious, and shocking, Connell and Sekou take on the culture of war between nations, religions, and individuals. Few taboos go unexplored, from an evocation of blackface minstrel shows to the idea that only indiscriminate breeding between the races will lead to the end of prejudice. The language, obviously, is raw.

Some of the sentiments seem a little shallow or pre-packaged: "Words of love without acts of love are not enough," for example, or "Until you can imagine a better world, you cannot have it." Still, director Robert Egan has calibrated the performances so that the work builds to a tidal wave of emotion and release.

Signature Theatre
The Word Begins
October 2nd December 2nd
Written and performed by Steve Connell and Sekou (tha misfit)
Directed by Robert Egan
The ARK Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or www.signature-theatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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