Tuesday, March 14, 2017

reviews - NATIVE SON - Stray Cat Theatre

Micah Jondel DeShazer and Cast
Photo by John Groseclose
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 25th.

"Author Richard Wright’s 1940 novel, Native Son....The story of a 20-year-old black youth from the poor side of 1930s Chicago who accidentally commits a terrible crime...presents his nightmare plight, the actions he takes, the choices he makes, as a natural occurrence that could have gone no other way. ... a destiny from which there is no escape....Writer Nambi E. Kelley’s recent adaption of Wright’s novel...Performed on David J Castellano’s highly effective set consisting of raised, wooden platforms...The issue with the new play is not so much Stray Cat’s production – director (Ron) May uses the set, positioning his actors in blocking that takes maximum, effective advantage of the available spaces and elevated levels; it’s the play’s construction. Told in brief, fragmented segments that jump back and forward, beginning with the end and finally circling back to the same scene, there’s a moment of adjustment required until the audience can settle into the play’s disunited rhythms, and it’s never a comfortable settle....what becomes at stake is the emotional connect. ...a sense of direct, empathetic involvement with individual scenes is not quite as engaging as it should be....Stray Cat’s excellent cast and its clear passion for the piece – particularly Micah Jondel DeShazer’s performance as Bigger, which is nothing short of heart-wrenching, and Joseph Kremer’s effectively subtle portrayal of white privilege ... watching Nambi E. Kelley’s new play is in danger for some as being an exercise in audience passivity; you enjoy the art but remain without response....." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"....Richard Wright's 1940 novel "Native Son" ...tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a poor black man living on Chicago's impoverished south side who finds himself, by accident, a murderer. ...Stray Cat Theatre presents the area premiere of Nambi E. Kelley's 2014 theatrical adaptation of Wright's novel which features a searing performance by Micah Jondel DeShazer as Bigger. ...Kelley's 90-minute, one-act, 2014 adaptation ...has found an intriguing way to get inside the head of Bigger. The use of a character called "Black Rat"...speaks Bigger's thoughts and feelings, which proves to be a thrilling way to understand and dramatically articulate this frustrated man's inner psyche. Kelley also structures the play with scenes from the present overlapping with ones from the past, often using similar words spoken by characters in both scenes as a way of linking them together. It makes for an intriguing and absorbing theatrical endeavor....there are some issues that create a distance between the audience and the characters...the play is non-apologetic and portrays Bigger with little remorse for his actions...It is also a very dark play—and production—with no hope, especially since the opening scene shows Bigger captured, so we know there is no way out for him. These elements make the piece not only a little hard to watch but also make Bigger's plight slightly less emotionally resonant since it seems his destiny is already predetermined. Director Ron May has found an incredibly gifted cast and does exceptionally well with the time shifts and tones in the piece. ...As Bigger, Micah Jondel DeShazer exquisitely captures the fraught, frantic man who fights with the voice in his head....As the Black Rat, Alan Johnson uses his deep, strong and direct voice to effectively evoke both the demon and the voice of reason in Bigger's head....Native Son is clearly still timely....an exceptional cast and refined direction... deliver a vivid, truthful, powerful, compelling, incredibly thrilling and disturbing piece of theatre. ... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...Ron May’s finely staged production is blessed with a superbly engaging performance by Micah Jondel DeShazer as Bigger Thomas...DeShazer’s performance grips audiences..." --Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)


COMING SOON - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

""...Nambi E Kelley's expressionist adaptation of Wright's work into a ninety-minute one-act roller coaster of electrifying emotion is a timely and provocative contribution to the conversation. In the directorial hands of Ron May, Stray Cat Theatre's current production of NATIVE SON offers an unnerving and intense portrayal of Bigger Thomas's downward spiral set against David J Castellano's dour urban landscape. May's choreographic sensibility manages to take what might otherwise feel like chaotic scene shifts and weaves the sequences into a comprehensive and comprehensible whole.... Bigger (played with fury by Micah Jondel Deshazer) is a soul on fire, bereft of hope, seething with frustration and anger, sexual and desperate, and in an endless state of panic. ..." - Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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