note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
The A.C.T. Roxbury Consortium is celebrating local artists in three one-act plays called "Roxbury in Motion" at the Roxbury Community College through the weekend. The plays range from a bittersweet remembrance pf things past ("Mtumi X" by Ed Bullins) to a wild teen adventure ("Subway" by Shaleema Thomas) to a hypnotic poem accompanied by choreography ("Nika" by David Coleman).
"Subway" is Thomas' first play --- a cinematic flash of a dozen or so short scenes which would have been highly amusing had it not been for overlong blackouts after each scene which halted their momentum. (Those darn opening night glitches!)The blackouts undercut the whimsy of Thomas' tale about two adventurous boys on the wrong train, who experience all the perils Charlie Chaplin's Little tramp might have encountered. He always landed on his feet, as do these two intrepid teens, portrayed with gusto by Aulelei Hollingsworth and Keisha Douglass. Inventive sets by Charles Mathews and Michael Thierry reinforce the cartoon mood of the piece, with cutout props like a transforming truck which converts when folded backwards into a front stoop.
Bullins' memory play "Mtumi X" paints a compelling portrait of what he calls "the lost Black men in the late twentieth century." Bullins the storyteller --- played here by Arthur Ray Collins --- stands centerstage remembering a compatriot who abandoned the struggle in the years following the '60s revolution. Bullins manages to convey the regrets he feels over the loss of their friendship, and the loss of the cause. Aulelei Hollingsworth delivers the passion and the desperation of a man who sees life as a gamble.
Director Sayif Sanyika cast several roles cross-gendered (for example the boys in Thomas' play) with remarkable results. The performances are all strong, and you notice only fleetingly that women are playing men --- then you suspend your belief, as Coleridge said.
Coleman's poem, about a man's alienation and redemption, gets an impressive production, thanks in great part to the powerful presence of Michael Nurse as a man obsessed with "Nika". Nurse summons up deep emotions without even speaking, and holds attention even as a masked chorus (choreographed by Patric Lacroix) encircles him. Fulani Haynes plays Nika as a mystical presence ... elegant and spiritual and forgiving.
All the plays could have benefitted from a smaller playing area to concentrate our attention; curtains could have reduced the sprawling stage to a small central square. But even given the awkward expanse of the RCC stage, the plays resonated throughout the audience