Jay-Z and Kanye set the tone in premiere of ‘Les Deux Noirs’ at Mosaic Theater


James J. Johnson, left, as Richard Wright, and Jeremy Hunter as James Baldwin in Psalmayene 24’s “Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son,” at Mosaic Theater Company. (Stan Barouh)

The Richard Wright-James Baldwin showdown “Les Deux Noirs” briefly becomes “Les Quatre” in the frisky, flippant new show at Mosaic Theater. Wright takes on a Jay-Z persona and Baldwin is Kanye West as the Jay-Z/Kanye West song “Niggas in Paris” gets the music video treatment, complete with choreography and projections. No telling where playwright Psalmayene 24 might swerve after that irreverent, heady start to his 70-minute power play between mid-20th-century titans of black American culture.

You can’t say Psalmayene 24 is jumping on the hip-hop bandwagon of “Hamilton”; he’s been doing this for at least 20 years, since he performed his “The Hip-Hop Nightmares of Jujube Brown” at Arena Stage. The new drama’s full title is “Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son,” and it’s based on a 1953 meeting in Paris between Wright and Baldwin. The beef was the upstart Baldwin’s critique of Wright’s 1940 novel, “Native Son,” a groundbreaking book that’s still troubling in its representation of Bigger Thomas’s violent reaction to an oppressive society.


The show is a fantasia that isn’t entirely sure of itself yet. Sexuality rears its head — Baldwin was gay, Wright married two white women — and in that complicated key, RJ Pavel and Musa Gurnis are terrific as the solicitous maitre d’ and waitress (both white) with creamy French accents and lusty eyes. The chats and the action never feel remote — lessons on the n-word, a great joke about reparations — even if the show is still seeking the thread that will pull it all tight.

Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son, by Psalmayene 24. Directed by Raymond O. Caldwell. Set, Ethan Sinnott; lights, William K. D’Eugenio; costumes, Amy MacDonald; projections, Brandi Martin; sound, Nick Hernandez; choreography, Tiffany Quinn. About 70 minutes. Through April 27 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $20-$65. 202-399-7993. mosaictheater.org.

Read the full review by Nelson Pressley of the Washington Post here.

THE LAKE AND THE MILL By EllaRose Chary Chosen By Great Plains Theatre Conference As Part of Their 2019 PlayLab Conference

Daily PlayLab readings are the foundation of the Great Plains Theatre Conference.  Twenty PlayLabs are held throughout the Conference week with two staged readings running simultaneously. Playwrights receive feedback on their work from a panel of GPTC Guest Artists, as well as other local and national theatre artists and the general public.

THE LAKE AND THE MILL is one of the 20 plays chosen out of 800 submitted.

See the full list of plays here.

BWW Review: A Community Copes with Trauma in World Premiere of NO CANDY, at Portland Playhouse

by Krista Garver  Jan. 24, 2019 

BWW Review: A Community Copes with Trauma in World Premiere of NO CANDY, at Portland Playhouse

Everyone deals with trauma in different ways — some people throw themselves into their work, some create art, some sing karaoke. In Emma Stanton’s NO CANDY, now having its world premiere at Portland Playhouse, a multi-generational group of Bosnian Muslim women who survived the Srebrenica genocide do all of these things. Directed by Tea Alagic, who is Croatian and was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, NO CANDY reveals the power and fortitude of the human spirit. At times, it gave me chills. At times, it’s also quite funny.

NO CANDY centers on the lives of four women — Zlata (Mia Zara), Uma (Sharonlee McLean), Olena (Nikki Weaver), and Fazila (Val Landrum) — who run a gift shop near the Srebrenica memorial. The women all lost much (husbands, children, homes…) in the war. Meanwhile, Fazila’s daughter, Asja (Agatha Olson), and her friend Maja (Jessica Hillenbrand), who were just children at the time, don’t understand exactly what happened or why their lives changes so drastically. It’s about holding on, letting go, and supporting one another.

The cast is superb. Val Landrum is excellent as Fazila, the owner of the store who’s struggling to relate to her daughter and has recently started having visions of her dead husband (Ben Newman). She gets the big dramatic moment of the show, a monologue that she delivers exquisitely. Sharonlee McLean is also perfectly cast as Uma, the oldest member of the group and the one who provides both perspective and humor. And those chills I mentioned? All thanks to Croatian-born actress Mia Zara. Zlata is the group’s karaoke singer, and Zara’s magnificent and haunting rendition of a certain 90s grunge song had the whole audience holding their breath.

In addition to Zara’s singing, the most impressive aspect of the production is the set. Peter Ksander uses every corner of the space, including what’s usually the corridor, to create a set with six distinct areas, with a projection on one wall for those who might not be able to see them all clearly. It’s a nice touch, though I was happy to be sitting near the center, where I could see at least most of the action unfold live.

Overall, I recommend NO CANDY very highly. It deals with difficult subject matter and isn’t always easy to watch. But it’s eloquently written, beautifully acted, and an important reminder of the horrors of war and the importance of community.

NO CANDY runs through February 10. More details and tickets here.

Photo credit: Brud Giles.

Read the full article on Broadway World Portland.