Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical The Beast in the Jungle Black Light Girl from the North Country The Hello Girls Midnight at the Never Get
Outstanding Book Of A Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway) Robert Horn, Tootsie Conor McPherson, Girl from the North Country Peter Mills and Cara Reichel, The Hello Girls Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown Jeff Whitty and James Magruder, Head Over Heels
Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway) Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, The Prom Joe Iconis, Be More Chill Peter Mills, The Hello Girls Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown David Yazbek, Tootsie
Outstanding Director Of A Musical Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown Scott Ellis, Tootsie Daniel Fish, Oklahoma! Joel Grey, Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish) Cara Reichel, The Hello Girls
Profession: Playwright/educator Hometown: Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (a.k.a. Zaire), raised in Miami Current home: Los Angeles Known for: Among Benson’s most produced plays are Fati’s Last Dance and The Talk. Her play Deux Femmes on the Edge de la Revolution Part 1 also received attention during its workshop at the New Black Fest in 2018. The first installment of a trilogy, Deux Femmes Part 1 won Benson a residency at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, as part of the Cultural Diaspora Program. What’s next: Minneapolis’s Playwright’s Center will produce Deux Femmes Part 1 as a workshop this July. Her play Detained is in development with Ensemble Studio Theatre/Los Angeles. What makes her special: Benson was among the first playwrights featured in the Monologue Project, an online resource for women of the African diaspora cultivated by Bishop Arts Theatre Center in Dallas. Her monologue “deeply resonated with me,” says Bishop Arts’ executive artistic director, Teresa Coleman Wash. In an interview for The Dramatist, Benson told Coleman Wash about “the emotionally debilitating narrow perceptions” she must combat as Black female writer. Concludes Coleman Wash, “Her work is beautifully compelling and engaging, and deserves a platform.” Healing through humor: Benson, whose plays celebrate Haiti’s history and culture, believes in the power of laughter. “My favorite kind of work is anything that makes me laugh, really laugh, while also illuminating poignant truths about the human condition,” she says. “Laughter can be profoundly transformative, and writing humor is such an extraordinary skill. If you can make people laugh, you’re essentially a healer.”
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.
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.
There is something wonderfully effortless about “The Last Wide Open,” which had its world premiere at the Playhouse in the Park Thursday evening.
That’s not a very compelling description, I know. But it’s a compliment. You see, Audrey Cefaly’s play defies all those laws of time and logic that we grew up with. It’s a play that should, by all rights, be utterly confusing. And, I suppose, if you’re one of those people who insists on grasping every last shred of reason out of a script, it still can be.
But why would you go to the theater and battle the playwright? This is the person you’ve asked to take you on a journey. Give in. Trust your playwright. Give yourself a chance to be enriched by the ride. And what an enchanting ride Cefaly and her cast – and director Blake Robison – take us on.
It all takes place in a small Italian restaurant called Frankie’s. There are just two characters; Lina and Roberto. He’s an Italian immigrant, while she is someone always wanting something she doesn’t have. That has the makings of a story. But Cefaly isn’t content with that. She’s leading us into an adventure.
“The Last Wide Open,” you see, is more than a love story. It is three variations on the same story. All three take place on the same day in the same place. What does that mean, exactly? Well, in the first section of the play, Roberto has spent five years as a dishwasher at Frankie’s. In the second, he’s still the same man, but he is a teacher who is helping out at his uncle’s restaurant – Frankie’s. In the third, he is a bus boy who has only just arrived in America. We meet three different faces of Lina, too; as an impatient, directionless server, a nurse and finally, a part-time server who is a week away from being married.
Confused? Probably, because this sounds much more complicated on paper than when it is played out in front of us. Cefaly has created characters who are, in many ways, just like the rest of us. Sure, there are actorly demands. But Lina and Roberto are people coping with anxiety, longing, uncertainty and the greatest burden of all, trying to find meaning in the humdrum of everyday life.
Is there sadness? Definitely. And apprehension and anger, too. And love? We hope there will be, because by the time we’re a few minutes into the play, we really like these characters. A lot. Kimberly Gilbert (Lina) is a bundle of . . . well, I was going to say “nerves.” That’s true. But there is so much more. Not only does she feel immobilized by the pressures of life, but she is also in a constant dither. Her greatest pride, it seems, is in the precision with which she mops the restaurant floor. And as Roberto, Marcus Kyd seems unflappable, no matter how muddled and chaotic the situation around him. Perhaps he has learned that, as a man with only a rough understanding of English, the safest way to proceed is to smile a lot. And nod occasionally. And be charming.
Oh – there is one more person on the stage, as well. Debra Hildebrand is the chief of the theater’s properties running crew. She’s the one in charge of making sure all that “stuff” on the stage is in the right place at the right time. Usually, the role would have her hidden backstage. But Cefaly wants everyone to be a part of the mix. So Hildebrand wanders in and out at significant moments, moving errant forks or handing the actors musical instruments – just being there when she’s needed. And she has a lovely presence, like a favorite aunt wafting in and out of the room.
There are a handful of songs, too. Written by Matthew M. Nielson, they’re not big musical numbers. They’re more like musical ruminations, except that they’re funnier and more clever than that description makes them sound.
“The Last Wide Open” is much harder to describe than it is to experience. Remember, it’s “effortless,” even in its unusual dramatic format. Should it be three separate plays? Played by separate actors? Who knows? That’s up to Cefaly. And the world she chooses to wrap us all up in is one that manages to be mystical and real. And charming. As I mentioned earlier, trust her. And trust her writing. And while you’re at it, trust her characters, too, no matter where they take us.
Read the full review from the Cincinnati.com here.