Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Harris has explained that she was driven to respond, artistically and viscerally, to the ongoing parade of African Americans dying from racialized attacks, including but not limited to those caused by law enforcement officials. As she pointed out in an interview, she wanted to emphasize that rage and frustration are legitimate responses to this situation.
Lest that sound as if the performance indicts audience members who are not African American, that is far from the truth. Part of the point being made by Harris, by director Whitney White, and by the eight performers is that everyone has a role to play in this society and it's important for them all to understandand accept the legitimacy ofstories that differ from their own.
The company originally performed this work in New York last year. As part of the residency in Washington, it was performed at ethnically diverse locations in the citythe Duke Ellington School for the Arts, Howard University, and THEARC, a community center in Southeast Washington east of the Anacostia Riverbefore opening at Woolly Mammoth.
The ritual begins in a room apart from the auditorium, where audience members view photos of African Americans who lost their lives to violence. Then they are led to the stage and asked to stand in a circle, sharing their names and answering questions posed by the facilitators. From there, the viewers take seats and the experience becomes somewhat more traditional in its format.
The actors express themselves in incendiary monologues, in a series of brief satiric plays (featuring Ugo Chukwu as an oblivious white woman and Rachel Christopher and Beau Thom as servants processing their fury in distinct ways), and in the bone-deep singing of Denise Manning. While catharsis is a result, so are enhanced awareness and a sense of connection.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company