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January 23, 2018
Review: The Homecoming Queen
Oberon K.A. Adjepong & Mfoniso Udofia in The Homecoming Queen. Photo credit: Ahron R. Foster

The Homecoming Queen marks playwright Ngozi Anyanwu’s Off-Broadway debut and long may she reign!

The play is a beautiful meditation on home, alienation, love, pain, and regret. It strikes harmonious chords, whether they be of laughter or melancholy, with a masterful clarity. The actors comprising the Chorus, Ebbe Bassey, Vinie Burrows, Patrice Johnson, and Zenzi Williams, begin with a beautiful song, each in spotlight, like statues come to life, history animated. Each and every member of the cast is incredible. These characters feel fully realized and human, as if they walked out of the world and on to the stage at Atlantic Theater Company. This nuance is not only in regard to each character, but in consideration of all the relationships The Homecoming Queen explores. Awoye Timpo has directed a production intent on the verisimilitude of life and its complications, and wow -- how she does succeed.

Kelechi (Mfoniso Udofia) is now a successful bestselling author returning to Nigeria to see her ailing Papa (Oberon K.A. Adjepong) after being away and in America for fifteen years. She has stayed distant because of painful memories, trauma, and a fraught relationship with her father, all of which come to the surface while she is welcomed home -- by the past, by her aunties, by her own memory. As Kelechi herself explains to Beatrice (Mirirai Sithole), the orphaned relative Papa has taken in as his house girl, “Everything I love and hate is here.” And that is true -- memories of her mother and of the music she used to sing haunt Kelechi in various silences. (Her mother died when she was a child.) Kelechi’s relationship with Obina (Segun Akande), the former house boy (but more importantly Kelechi’s childhood, now distant friend) who has grown up to be a successful banker, is tangled in longing, intimacy, and disappointment. Especially thought provoking is the relationship between Kelechi and her father. Their relationship crackles as they attempt to reconnect while not engaging with the past. They tease each other, berate one another, but struggle to communicate the love and regret they both feel. In flashbacks, where both Akande and Udofia - -with staggering ease, either in play or in crisis -- transform into their younger childhood selves, we see that Papa was once strict and imposing, a stark contrast to the relaxed affection he offers Beatrice. It is a long road to forgiveness.

The details of the production must be acknowledged: the costumes, the incredible music and sound, and the staging allowed a complete immersion in Kelechi’s story, as if we were transported back to Nigeria with her. There was a particular moment when I thought someone’s cell phone was going off (!!!!!) but it was, in fact, part of the play. I laughed to myself -- relieved that the magic wasn’t ruined, pleased to be duped. It was, indeed, a magical experience and I feel grateful to have shared it with the audience and performers.

I won’t spoil the final scene, but suffice it to say, it left me feeling buoyant while simultaneously aware of the difficulty of happiness and the strength it takes to continue forward. One of the most memorable and poignant endings I’ve seen -- a testament to the power of story and hope.

Event Info:

The Homecoming Queen

In Manhattan at Atlantic Theater

Now – Feb 11th, 2018

See the full Event Page
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Review: Describe the Night

By Tami Shaloum

Writers thrive on stories. It doesn’t usually matter whether they are true or not. The consumer of the story is supposed to enjoy it either way. But what if a story, or even the threat of a story, could get you in trouble? Describe the Night, an epic three-act play by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Giovanna Sardelli and currently playing at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater, is about what happens when the truth gets distorted and the lines between fact and fiction become blurred. Multiple characters intersect in Describe the Night with a timeline that spans 90 years of Russian history from the Polish-Soviet War in 1920 to the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk that killed nearly 100 people, including most of the Polish government. Some of it is history and some of it is fiction. Sometimes the two are intertwined. The play jumps back and forth in time to create intrigue for a convoluted narrative that connects each character through one writer’s journal. Russian Jew Isaac Babel (Danny Burstein) is a correspondent during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920. He is supposed to report the facts but he wants to write stories. He meets Nikolai Yezhov (Zach Grenier), a commander in Russia’s Re …Read more

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Written by: Kathryn Kelly
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