Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

What to Send Up When It Goes Down
Movement Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Everybody and Right to Be Forgotten

The Cast
Photo by Teresa Castracane
The first thing to say about the Movement Theatre Company's production of What to Send Up When It Goes Down is that any review would be irrelevant. Author Aleshea Harris calls her work a ritual that incorporates the entire audience, and people who attend the production at Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company are likely to have an emotional response unlike anything they have seen or felt before.

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 understand—and accept the legitimacy of—stories 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 city—the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, Howard University, and THEARC, a community center in Southeast Washington east of the Anacostia River—before 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
What to Send Up When It Goes Down
The Movement Theatre Company's production
October 30th—November 10th, 2019
By Aleshea Harris
Three: Alana Raquel Bowers
Four: Nemuna Ceesay
One/Made: Rachel Christopher
Six/Miss: Ugo Chukwu
Two: Kambi Gathesha
Nine/Song Leader: Denise Manning
Seven: Javon Q. Minter
Five/Man/Driver: Beau Thom
Directed by Whitney White
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
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