The opening moments of “Last Night and the Night Before” provide a feeling more than a complete introduction. Think of it as a triptych. On a darkened stage, a guy bends into the work of digging a tomb; there sits a girl looking out into the night; a woman stands in the shadows breathing, breathing, breathing.
Figuring out from a background that is sandstone-colored, this slice of some spectacle hints at link but also violence. While the drama touches on the former, it’s extremely much about the latter, approximately how those with means can encounter but those without can appreciate just as fiercely.
Ten-year-old Sam and her parents will be the family at the core of Donnetta Lavinia Grays’ loving completed drama, receiving its world premiere at the Denver Center’s Ricketson Theatre. It runs through Feb. 24.
On the heels of the somber start, Monique (Keona Welch) and girl Sam (Zaria Kelley) arrive at the stoop of sister Rachel’s brownstone in Brooklyn. Monique and Sam are on the lam. But why? And at which ’s Reggie, Sam’s father?
Having broken free of the childhood beyond, Rachel has performed well. Her exodus has been in part a journey to discover a location of her sexuality, although the drama doesn’t belabor the point. (Monique’s default to name-calling does that work.)
After a blossoming poet, Monique remained put in Georgia, had Samantha, tussled with addiction.
They were “jus’ in the neighborhood,” Monique informs Rachel (Bianca LaVerne Jones), who shares a homey flat with spouse Nadima (Erin Cherry). It’s a self-consciously ridiculous maintain given the space between Georgia and New York.
It doesn’t take long to estimate Monique as undependable, and the explanations for Sam’s migration north guess. No, things aren’t as Monique recounts them. During an argument that rsquo & doesn;t take long to blow off, Nadima confirms her own doubts when she finds track marks lining Monique’s arm.
To rsquo the writer & ;s charge, things are exactly what the audience might assume. When Reggie (Sharod Choyce) arrives searching to get his wife and daughter, everything unfolds begins to fray Nadima and Rachel’s nationally groove. Why Rachel allows this happen becomes a part of the mystery.
The play’s truths — beautiful, complex, bloodied — unfold subtly. At times subtly. “Last Night” dodges melodrama — a pretty great thing. Additionally, it retreats from interfering head-on with the traumas it&rsquo. The events which result in Reggie heaving on a burlap-wrapped body into a hole — the grief of addiction, of violence, of abandonment — don’t get. The tale’s rending revelation gets buried.
So, the drama stirs. The title is taken from one of the rhymes — some suggestiveothers sweet — which Sam sing-songs throughout. Sometimes she recites these alone. Other times, she’s combined by a doting Reggie in flashback.
There’s also tenderness and humor for of the hurt permeating the drama. Nadima’so reaction to watching Monique from the keyhole is priceless. “Babe? It’so for you,” she yells turning back into the bedroom from which she just emerged. “It’s surprise. ”
Talk about your intimacy interruptus.
Then there’s the quasi-Christmas dinner which Monique cooks, that she contrasts with a comically epic recitation of elegance.
2 Years Back, Valerie Curtis-Newton directed the Denver Center’s Colorado New Play Summit workshop reading of “Last Night and the Night Before. ” She returns to this production with a finely tuned sense of physical and heart flow. The throw gives performances to her. And she’s deftly abetted by picturesque designer Matthew Smucker, who has made a handsome set which establishes a fluid tension between Brooklyn and the fictional city of Vixten, Ga.. Lighting design, by Mary Louise Geiger, accentuates the real-life feel of Rachel and Nadima’s flat as it plunges the shadow that is clandestine into evocative and the past.
In addition to composing, Gray acts. (Her many credits include Broadway, television and film.) The characters she’s feel to another.
There&rsquo lots in Choyce and Welch’s chemistry young lovers starting out beneath a Georgia moon. Jones makes Rachel’s concern for her niece palpable. And Kelley’s likeable, true twist as Sam should elicit similarly feelings in the audience because of the young actress.
Erin Cherry is especially good at respecting Nadima’s assistance. Hers and Rachel’s has become the sanctuary for a juvenile sibling and a traumatized kid, whose gasps for breath aren’t asthma however fear — that might be OK for an extremely short moment. When it eventually isn’t, Nadima’s solution stings.
“Last Night and the Night Before” began with Reggie, Sam and Monique in the Georgia night. By the play’s ending, that instant gains meaning.
Grays artfully bookends her play with a different scene. This one takes place and between, in the then and the now, in the meantime of reconciliation and love. It is as the opening has been thrown into darkness as warmly lit.
It hints, also, at more even as it supplies a rousing final moment.
“Last Night and the Night Before. ” Written by Donnetta Lavinia Grays. Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton. Including Zaria Kelley, Keona Welch, Erin Cherry, Bianca LaVerne Jones and Sharod Choyce. Through Feb. 24, at the Ricketson Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th & Curtis streets. Denvercenter.org; 303-893-4100
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