‘black odyssey’ takes Homer on an epically sexy trip to Harlem End-shutdown

This is not a prediction. But one day black odyssey (Classic Stage Company, until March 26) it should be staged on a Broadway stage in front of the kind of engaged audience this reviewer saw the show this weekend. The show feels like an irresistible hit on a small stage that would happily take up every inch of a larger one. Poignant, fierce, laugh-out-loud funny, beautifully lit (by Adam Honoré), designed (David Goldstein) and directed by Stevie Walker-Webb, in black odyssey playwright Marcus Gardley takes the The odysseyand recasts it as an “epic poem in four acts” about black history, pain, joy, resistance, love, and power.

Over a span of two and a half hours, we follow the journey of Ulysses Lincoln (Sean Boyce Johnson), who in 2017 tries to return home after serving in Afghanistan. He is torn with guilt over one particular murder he has carried out, in this case, unfortunately for him, the son of God Paw Sidin (Jimonn Cole).

The latter wants to make sure that Ulysses goes through every imaginable pain and hardship as he desperately tries to get back to his home in Harlem and his wife Nella (D. Woods): “He shot my son in the face, so I’m eating. Revenge is a food best served raw. Paw Sidin is also involved in a battle of wills and challenges with brother Deus (James T. Alfred), and so, as we initially see, this is a game of chess with terrifying consequences.

Just as the Greeks believed that we are flies when the gods mocked us, the characters in black odyssey they are well aware of the forces, be they gods, governments, or the forces of capitalism and white supremacy, that govern black lives that are beyond their control. The production weaves together mythology and black history, and features remarkably beautiful costumes designed by Kindall Almond that range from basic combat uniform to extravagant ’70s glamour.

Both in Ulysses’ quest to get home and atone for what he’s done, and in what’s happening in that home, Nella trying to raise her son Malachi (a neatly spiky, scruffy Marcus Gladney Jr.), we see that those Forces try their worst, as a mother does the best she can while hoping against hope for her husband to return to her. The show not only stays in the present day, but free-travels back to the Civil Rights Era, where we meet another family (Adrienne C. Moore, Lance Coadie Williams, Temidayo Amay) literally trying to stay afloat.

In their sea of ​​environmental catastrophe, Hurricane Katrina, they spy on other black history icons alive and engaged in their own battles for survival, including Emmett Till.

Time bends this way and that in black odyssey, which eventually led to the arrival of Harriett D. Foy’s Aunt Tee. We all need an Auntie Tee in our lives. Frankly, the world would be better run by Aunt Tee, a domineering diva, fiercely protective, free in her judgment and passionate in her loyalty and love, and she wears a pair of white boots. “God knows you could use a hot bath, a hot comb, and a hot oil treatment. You already gave up on yourself, didn’t you?” she tells Nella when she shows up at her house in Harlem to take care of her.

His summary of Malachai’s trespass money is: “He’s a teenager. This is the shit they do. i’ve been watching euphoria. You have to let him do stupid things like come home early and wear sagging pants that show his underwear and eat like we don’t feed him and paint his hair all kinds of colors and look at girls like he’s possessed and play that Xbox every night. hours. at night and he walks with his head down and drags his feet and smells like eggs.”

The story, like time in the play, blithely wobbles back and forth, and you might find yourself feeling a bit confused as the (a bit too long) show progresses; characters and stories from Homer’s original are either reused or scrapped entirely. The outrageous characters inevitably have much more fun than Ulysses (whose only personal lapse is the discovery that he can dance) and the long-suffering Nella.

Foy relishes every majestic line that slips through the scene he’s given. Moore also gleefully dominates the stage as she transforms into a voracious Circe, eager to seduce a lost and understandably hungry Ulysses as she mouths a poem of edible, unctuous lust: “Scent of mint, of toffee, freshly brewed coffee/ Mouth waters like drops of ice in a crystal glass / Watery eyes from steaming veggies, hot potato and mashed corn / When the beans turn an ‘eat me green’ / Margarine melts into a golden shimmer / And if you listen… you can hear guts growling…”

Alfred plays it straight and loud as Deus, before, in orange flares and platform boots, taking the stage as Super Fly Tireseas, the shagadelic prophet. Diana Ross, Tina Turner and James Brown make their presence known. There are other surprising pieces; The one that excited our audience the most occurs when Nella is about to make Paw Sidin’s evil ambitions come true, as now in disguise, she tries to make him say that she loves him and not Ulysses. “Don’t do it girl!” came a shout from the front row.

The show’s culmination brings us to the present, the end of Ulysses’ odyssey and the quieter final displays of atonement, redemption, and family. black odyssey It doesn’t sugarcoat, but emphasizes that beyond simply surviving oppression and attack are the consolidating forces of love, strength, and power.

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