Generations by Debbie Tucker Green
Presented by Soho Rep
Review By Sydney Arndt
With affective writing and captivating direction, “Generations” has proved that successful theatre can be done in a short 30 minutes. While the running time for this piece is slim, the impact and breadth of the action is astounding—it is entitled “Generations” remember.
The ingenious set designed by Arnulfo Maldonado certainly helps catapult the audience into the setting, eliminating the need for a descriptive exposition. As you open the door from the street to the box office, you step into beautiful dusty red dirt that is covering the entire floor, from entrance to theater. Shabby fabric is draped from the ceiling and boldly painted tin slates cover the walls of the space. The audience is immersed deeper into a South African township with each step. Paired with the set’s visual appeal, your olfactory senses dance with the spices and aromas of a home-cooked meal that is simmering on the stovetop in the middle of the playing space. This show is general seating and you may be surprised to be choosing between a milk crate with a pillow cushion or a plastic patio chair. In a fashion that was reminiscent of Soho Rep’s production of “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation…,” the actors were planted among the audience making their joyous, and somewhat sorrowful, opening song swell in surround-sound.
Green’s script is a bit elusive in terms of circumstance, but it doesn’t matter much because the action was well-defined and emotionally grounded. The basis of the action centers around three generations as they cook supper at different times in their life. The text is simplistic on the surface; consisting of joking around, teasing, and praising who can cook, who can’t cook, and who taught who how to cook. The first scene is light-hearted and flirtatious as a young man (Mamoudou Athie) does his best to woo the grand-daughter (Shyko Amos) despite her sister’s (Khail Toi Bryant) accusations that she just can’t cook. We start to wonder what Green means by “cooking” as there is definitely more implied. The scene then repeats itself over and over again with fewer characters until only the eldest, the grandparents (played by Thuli Dumakude and Michael Rogers), remain. The chorus sings breath-taking music that feels ceremonious and provokes a sense of loss and pride. I wish I had the translation for the music composed by Bongi Duma as it was not in English. From this vein, it is unclear as to why family members were disappearing and what time period it was meant to be, though I would guess around present day based on the costumes. Despite these uncertainties, the overwhelming sense of loss permeating from the grandparents in the final scene was impossible to miss.
Leah Gardiner’s clean direction and defined relationships between the characters is what truly made this show captivating. Each moment was precise and round with all of the complexities of humanity. “Generations” is about handing over a legacy with younger generations. There is an inherent risk that comes with giving; you just may lose everything. Much as the red dirt stayed with my sneakers for the next couple days, so did the universal question that this play provoked: what is shared, lost, and remembered as time passes? And how do we go on?
Generations runs through November 9th at Soho Rep; 46 Walker Street, NYC. http://sohorep.org/generations.
Originally Published On: http://showbusinessweekly.com/article-2491-%E2%80%9Cgenerations%E2%80%9D-by-debbie-tucker-green.html