Arena Stage, no stranger to innovative and thought-provoking theater, debuts its second season in Crystal City with the world premier of Daniel Beatys award-winning and much-anticipated play Resurrection.
Billed as a drama with a unique blend of music, poetry and dance, Resurrection explores the lives of African-American men as they struggle to survive their varied journeys in life.
Beaty is making his return to Arena after performing in last seasons Emergence-SEE!, which garnered him an off-Broadway Obie Award and two Helen Hayes Award nominations. In Resurrection, he was inspired by The State of Black America 2007: Portrait of the Black Male, published by the National Urban League, a report that laments the prospects for young black men.
Resurrection is my effort to look at this crisis with thoughtfulness, heart and humor, the playwright said. The intent of this work is to remind us all that no matter the difficulties we may be facing, there is always hope and the possibility to overcome.
In Resurrection, Beaty introduces the audience to six absorbing characters, each representing a different decade of life: Eric (Thuliso Dingwall), a budding child scientist; Erics father, Mr. Rogers (Michael Genet), a health food entrepreneur; Twon (Turron Kofi Alleyne), a recent high school graduate; Dre (Che Ayende), a former convict; The Bishop (Jeffery V. Thompson), the leader of a mega-church; and The Bishops son Isaac (Alvin Keith), a corporate executive.
The lives of these men are interwoven in a script of poetic vignettes that makes ample use of Beatys own talents as a renowned national slam poetry champion. With innovative style, Beaty tackles several weighty issues, one quite literally for The Bishop, who is struggling with a food addiction.
Thirty-year old Dre is a former drug dealer who learns that he has infected his pregnant girlfriend with HIV, while The Bishops son Isaac, a picture of corporate success, struggles with his hidden homosexuality.
Most poignant of all is 10-year-old Eric, whose life dream is to find a formula that will cure the aching hearts of black folks.
Directed by Oz Scott, the immensely talented cast turns in a powerful and emotional performance. Sadly, there was little singing and even less dancing, despite the reference to both in the plays description, and the stellar cast left the audience wanting for more during the few musical moments provided by innovative Haitian-American composer Daniel Bernard Roumain.
Particularly commanding performances were turned in by Keith, whose seemingly hopeless situation leads to a surprising climax, and Ayende, who was riveting in his range of both tender and tormented moments on stage.
But while a vast array of expression and emotion are evident, Resurrection doesnt quite provide the step up or sense of hope the playwright was trying to achieve.
Beaty uses his ample artistic and energetic talents to infuse the script with music and poetic dialogue, but the intended audience will perhaps still leave feeling empty.
Arenas production of Resurrection, chosen as one of 18 recipients of the 2008 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Awards, is emotionally charged with adult sexual themes and should be reserved for mature audiences.
However, even without a tangible sense of closure or resolve, Resurrection features an incomparable cast of six of the finest actors to grace the local theater scene and a uniquely poetic script that will leave even veteran theatergoers impressed.
Resurrection is playing now through October 5 at Arena Stage, 1800 S. Bell St., in Crystal City. For tickets or more information, visit www.arenastage.org or call 202-488-3300.