Emergency

Near Liberty Island, a slave ship named Remembrance materializes from the murky depths of the Hudson River. The nation is electrified. Crowds of African-American onlookers gather, as do a pair of middle-school kids, a stuffed-shirt businessman, a strident lady professor, a vagrant. The media story grows more sensational after a middle-aged man named Reginald swims the river and boards the ship, then communes with the 400-year-old spirit of an African chief. Meanwhile, some of the crowd — dancing and singing in African tongues — become possessed. An award-winning poet with a remarkable gift for mimicry, loads of passion and a beautiful voice, writer-performer Daniel Beaty delivers the full, fantastical spectrum of his solo piece with dazzling artistry. Unencumbered by props or costume changes, Beaty convincingly portrays 40 male, female and transsexual characters. The pivotal figure is a young poet named Rodney; he and his gay brother, Freddy, are the sons of the river-fording Reginald, a Shakespearean scholar who “lost it” after his wife was murdered. Many of the play’s most memorable passages are hip-hop poems delivered by Rodney and his competitors in a nationally televised poetry slam. While the play’s main thrust — a “lest we forget” tribute to the African-American struggle — may be familiar, the execution is extraordinary. Directed by Charles Randolph Wright, the play has a universal theme that is underscored by Alexander V. Nichols’ mesmerizing videography and designer Michael Gilliam’s lights. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., June 1, 2 p.m. Starts: April 23. Continues through May 25, 2008


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