did you hear about the woman whose finger fell off
at the beach
and a seagull just picked it up and went off with it
like it was a sandwich
seagulls are vicious
or they’re just hungry
A woman’s arm falls off soon into playwright Charly Evon Simpson’s engrossing allegory, sandblasted. Ms. Simpson’s tone beautifully mixes the comic with the wistful, her dialogue is glorious, and her characters are appealing. Structured as 18 punchy short time-shifting scenes, with duologues, trialogues and monologues, the play builds to a stirring conclusion. Simpson quotes Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett in her stage notes, their aesthetic influence is evident. The setting is a sandy landscape, the time is “now. after. future.”
I’m sick of falling apart
Odessa and Angela are two loquacious Black women in their 30’s who have cajoled the indeterminably aged Adah, an Oprah Winfrey-type celebrity self-help guru into offering them refuge at her compound. They are seeking respite from a worldwide pestilence which causes women’s body parts to fall off. Conceived and written in 2018 and 2019, sandblasted with its isolated terrain and medical factoids often coincidentally anticipates the ramifications of the pandemic. A jokey reference to the Ukraine is unintendedly jolting considering the recent Russian invasion. Art and the world collide.
As Odessa and Angela, Marinda Anderson and Brittany Bellizeare, respectively, are equally vivacious and captivating during their comedy team-style interactions as well as in the play’s serious interludes. Charismatic television and screen veteran Rolonda Watts delivers a majestic performance as Adah, conveying humor, depth and mysticism. Andy Lucien’s winning portrayal of Angela’s younger bartender brother Jamal is solidly comedic while demonstrating range.
Director Summer L. Williams’ fine work with the cast is matched by her simple though inspired physical staging and orchestration of the production’s technical elements for a pleasing presentation.
With its semi-circular door-laden wall painted with clouds, sandy floor, colorful large beach umbrellas and splendorous cloudy ceiling, scenic designer Matt Saunders’ creation is a dazzling vision allowing for swift scene transitions. Stacey Derosier’s lighting design imparts an ethereal quality of muted brightness, eerie dimness and bold blackouts. Musical portions and crisp ambient bits are skillfully rendered by sound designer Sadah Espii Proctor. Montana Levi Blanco’s costume design has an appropriately zany edge, particularly Adah’s shimmering gowns. The characters are further realized by Cookie Jordan’s fabulous hair and wig design.
Resonant, prescient and compelling, sandblasted is a thoughtful entertainment.
sandblasted (through March 13, 2022)
Vineyard Theatre, 108 East 15th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-353-0303 or visit http://www.vineyardtheatre.org
Running time: one hour and 40 minutes without an intermission