Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule (updated)

Also see Susan's reviews of What the Constitution Means to Me, Doubt: A Parable and 1 Henry IV

Nikki Crawford, Samuel Ray Gates, Shannon Dorsey,
and Chinna Palmer

Photo by Teresa Castracane
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company is presenting the Washington premiere of Jackie Sibblies Drury's Fairview, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Audiences should not know too much about what they're going to see; they should just understand that the 100-minute play is a mind-fuck centered on whose stories get told, who gets to tell them, and who constitutes the audience.

The misdirection begins with the pre-show music: sound designer Roc Lee keeps things light with a collection of theme songs from sitcoms based around African Americans, from "The Jeffersons" and "Good Times" to "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Misha Kachman's scenic design depicts the large, tasteful, well-appointed (and in some places two-dimensional) house of Beverly Frasier (Nikki Crawford), her husband Dayton (Samuel Ray Gates), and their teenage daughter Keisha (Chinna Palmer). The focal point of the living room is a large photorealistic portrait—an upper-middle-class African-American family on display.

Director Stevie Walker-Webb understands the importance of pacing as the action begins fairly benignly. At first the play seems utterly conventional, with a few hiccups, as Beverley wears herself out preparing a 70th-birthday dinner for her mother, and Dayton offers his help without actually doing much. They're soon joined by Beverley's waspish sister Jasmine (Shannon Dorsey, making a meal out of her every word) and overachieving Keisha, home from school after basketball practice. One odd thing is that several characters examine themselves in an invisible mirror on the fourth wall, facing the audience.

However, that's just the beginning. The perfect surface begins to crack, several other characters make their presence known, Ivania Stack's costumes go from elegant to outrageous, and nothing is what it appears to be, including who's in charge of the action. The cast members, especially Palmer, surrender themselves to the needs of the play and go fearlessly wherever it leads.

In conjunction with the production, Woolly Mammoth is hosting post-show conversations after each performance to allow audiences to share their opinions and regain their footing in the constantly shifting landscape conjured by the play.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
September 9th - October 6th, 2019
By Jackie Sibblies Drury
Beverly: Nikki Crawford
Dayton: Samuel Ray Gates
Jasmine: Shannon Dorsey
Keisha: Chinna Palmer
Jimbo: Cody Nickell
Suze: Kimberly Gilbert
Mack: Christopher Dinolfo
Bets: Laura C. Harris
Directed by Stevie Walker-Webb
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-393-3939 or