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Duat

Rousing and inspiring, Daniel Alexander Jones’ ode to his famous alter-ego is immensely entertaining and profoundly unique.

Jacques Gerard Colimon and Daniel Alexander Jones in a scene from “Duat” (Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes)

Jacques Gerard Colimon and Daniel Alexander Jones in a scene from “Duat” (Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes)

Ryan Mikita

Ryan Mikita

Every once in a while, a show comes along that is so unique and personal, and blends so many genres that it is nearly impossible to categorize within the means of traditional classification. Daniel Alexander Jones’ Duat is a prime example of this, a show so full of diverse themes and inspirations that to say it fits squarely into any one genre would be to do the show a massive disservice. The Soho Rep production is having its world premiere at the Connelly Theater.

Constructed in three parts, the first part of Jones’ memoir-meets-manifest-destiny is an enchanting origin story that takes place in a mystical library that holds an archive of Jones’ life (set design by  Arnulfo Maldonado). Though this portion of the story is filled with tidbits of information from his childhood and adolescence, the focus is on the story of the creation of his famous and renowned alter ego, Jomama Jones, and the book he discovered as a teen that aided in her creation (more on that later).

With his very first moment on stage, Jones–in his first of two incarnations of the evening–turns to face the audience and asks the stirring question, “How is your heart?” And with this clear breaking of the fourth wall, Jones establishes an intimate and inviting relationship with the crowd, one that beckons transparency and the truth in the telling of his unapologetic tale. Jones narrates the entire first part of his play, and is aided by two actors (Tenzin Gund-Morrow, and Jacques Gerard Colimon) who–in the retelling of Jones’ childhood–alternate between playing a pair of mystical companions, and physical representations of his younger brother and himself, respectively. Moments of humor, poignancy, and sheer joy are scattered about between musical interludes, well-constructed monologues, and solid performances from the trio of performers featured in Jones’ Part 1.

Tenzin Gund-Morrow, Jacques Gerard Colimon, Jomama Jones, Kaneza Schaal and  Toussaint Jeanlouis in a scene from “Duat” (Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes)

Tenzin Gund-Morrow, Jacques Gerard Colimon, Jomama Jones, Kaneza Schaal and  Toussaint Jeanlouis in a scene from “Duat” (Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes)

During his adolescence, Jones discovered the ancient Egyptian text, The Book of the Dead, and through this learned of the Duat, the Egyptian term for “the realm of the dead.” This discovery is the driving force behind second part of the show, a conceptual presentation of Egyptian text by means of an interpretive and extravagant piece of theater. Garbed in costumes characteristic of ancient Egyptian gods (this scene is just one example of Oana Botez’s diverse and beautiful costume design), actors storm about the stage shouting highly-stylized text as the lights flash aggressively, and the report of a thunderstorm boom throughout the house in Elisheba Ittoop’s sound design. Powerful and jarring, the contrast between Parts 1 and 2 leaves the crowd filled with intrigue as the house falls to black before the first and only intermission.

If Parts 1 and 2 are to be considered the stones upon which Jomama Jones was built, then the second act–Part 3 of Jones’ magnum opus–is the culmination of Jones’ past and inspirations; a no-punches-pulled presentation of his alter-ego in all her glory. Taking place in a pseudo-classroom of sorts, the final portion of Jones’ creation story has Jomama Jones helping a group of her students to prepare for a school pageant. Featuring the full ensemble of actors seen throughout the first half of the evening, Part 3 is a full-on presentation of the diverse and impressive talents of each of the show’s actors. Featuring multiple musical numbers (including new music by Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes, Bobby Halvorson and Jomama Jones) that dip into a various different genres, some of the performances include solo dance acts, powerful soul songs, and even Def Jam-style spoken poetry, in the lead up to a flower-power inspired group number to ensure the audience leaves the theater dancing into the streets.

Directed by Will Davis, Duat is a powerful example of the dynamism of collaboration and personal inspiration. Distinctly unique and featuring a young and effervescent ensemble of actors, in Duat Daniel Alexander Jones has created a wonderful homage to his alter-ego and life in the form of a memorable and rousing piece of theater.

Duat (through November 6, 2016)

Soho Rep

The Connelly Theater, 220 East 4th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit http://www.sohorep.org

Running time: two hours including one intermission

Ryan Mikita
About Ryan Mikita (70 Articles)
Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Ryan has been an advocate for the performing arts since childhood. In 2009, Ryan moved straight to NYC after receiving a BFA in Music Theatre from the Hartt School. Ryan not only loves acting, but is passionate about the process as well. In his time here, Ryan has acted as a producer, director, or script editor on multiple occasions and gladly accepts any opportunity to be involved in a new project.
Contact: Twitter

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