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David Ryan Smith

Where We Stand

February 14, 2020

Amidst the hubbub that includes coerced audience clapping and singalongs, we attempt to discern what the point is. It appears to be the story of an outsider who takes up residence in a rural locality and is accused of a crime;  the audience votes whether to convict or acquit him. Several audience members have been given pages of lofty speeches to recite. “The words your fellow Townspeople quoted come from Dr. Cornell West and Coretta Scott King,” states the program. Where We Stand’s 70 minutes are mildly engaging if often baffling and do make some impact. [more]

Passage

May 18, 2019

Christopher Chen’s exquisite and mystical "Passage" being produced by the Soho Rep is inspired by E.M. Forster’s "A Passage to India," borrowing its plot and character relationships. But while Forster’s novel was simply about the British colonization of India, Chen has something bigger in mind. Chen calls the two locales Country X and Country Y so that the audience can fill in whatever two countries they wish in whatever time. Director Saheem Ali’s superb multicultural cast offers the maximum in diversity. And in this age of nations all over the world cracking down on immigrants and immigration, the play is an investigation into our complicated feelings about The Other. [more]

Mankind

January 9, 2018

Playwright Robert O’Hara’s fertile premise might have made for a provocative, sober sci-fi take on gender roles, sexuality and parenthood. Instead, it’s broadly conceived and lame. The flat dialogue is in the vein of Abbott and Costello with numerous jokes about “fathers” since there are no mothers. The “Dude, I’m pregnant” bit gets painfully recycled. [more]

The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA The Negro Book of the Dead

December 5, 2016

There is no plot, just a series of verbal jousts played out on Riccardo Hernandez’ sleek, two-tier set with just the image of trees looming over the actors wearing Montana Blanco’s colorfully exaggerated costumes. From the childlike Prunes and Prisms of Ms. Sithole to the angrily twisted Bigger (a reference to Richard Wright) of Mr. Piniella, the actors recite the difficult lines, goaded to do their finest by director Lileana Blain-Cruz who totally understands the work. [more]