For his latest production, Brinkman has assembled over 20 songs which, cohesively, tackle every aspect of the climate crisis. Starting with a background of the physics and chemistry behind what’s happening in the world, he begins the show with a crash course in climate science. Brinkman’s clever lyrics are both informative and comical, and the unique way in which the information is presented to the audience makes learning fun and entertaining. Not only that, the conversational approach in his rapping also helps to make the information more easily digestible.
Brinkman builds from one song to the next, incorporating information and key words from the previous songs to amplify both context and complexity. As the audience becomes more informed, Brinkman is able to delve deeper into the core issues of the matter, eventually circling around to World politics and big business. When it comes to facts and science, Brinkman remains mostly unbiased but as the discussion turns towards the free market, no punches are pulled. Brinkman is both critical and uncompromising in his perspective of free enterprise and its effects on the environment, and he often suggests that the slow rate of change in environmental standards is due to the stalling and blind eye of the oil tycoons.
Brinkman is a skilled linguist, and the style of his rapping varies widely from one song to the next. His use of different beats keeps the pace of the show interesting, and even at the times when he’s spitting words at his fastest, every syllable is properly enunciated and intelligible. Brinkman is also not above some fun at his own expense, and often self-aggrandizes his jet-setting lifestyle in good spirit.
Director Darren Lee Cole must have had a blast working with Brinkman on this one, as is evident from the pulsing energy the show elicits from beginning to end. The songs are arranged strategically and constantly shift in their tone and pace, and subtle staging tricks—such as performing center stage in front of a microphone versus sitting stage left on a stool—are employed to continuously keep the audience guessing. While design is certainly not the focus of the production, a projection screen set up behind Brinkman changes images in sync with the content of the rap at hand. Designed by Olivia Sebesky, the images that pop up on the screen are often hilarious and ironic. More importantly, while the screen serves its purpose in adding some value to the production, it rarely steals focus from its star.
Rap Guide to Climate Change is a highly enjoyable theatrical experience which lies well beyond the normal conventions of the theater. Lying somewhere between a play, musical, and a documentary, Baba Brinkman’s latest is a fun, thought-provoking, and highly original performance piece which successfully delivers an important message in an approachable and entertaining way.
Rap Guide to Climate Chaos (extended through July 30, 2016)
SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, west of Sixth Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-691-1555 or visit http://www.rapguidetoclimatechaos.com
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission