Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Last Fall

Stephanie Berry winner of the coveted OBIE (2001) awarded for her one-woman show, The Shaneequa Chronicles: the Making of a Black Woman

This weekend I had the pleasure to travel to New York City to witness an important milestone in a friends career. On April 17 the world, well a small corner of it, witnessed the transition of Stephanie Berry's craft from actor to include playwright. The world premiere production of the Last Fall, her play about a love story between two individuals in the senior years of their life. Watching the play I realized an irony, that is, many of the same dynamics and challenges in love attachments are present across generations. Issues of trust, commitment, adjustments to one another and clarity about the relationship and common agreement about same are all similar across generations. The unique factors that aging partners appear to face is the recognition that one might have to settle because advance age may preclude other options. Also, partners, usually the woman having to compete with much younger rivals for love interests is another unique dynamic associated with aging romance. Sexually active seniors also face more health concerns as they seek sexual pleasures with aging bodies and all the accompanying challenges.

The two protagonists, Lizan Mitchell (Rhea) and Roscoe Orman (Neville) meet and become enmeshed in a verbally combative relationship that is sometimes as toxic as it is loving. The couple treat the audience to their unique blend of intimacy moving back and forth between loving reminising of shared moments of playfulness and lusty sex to sharp and biting verbal exchanges punctuated by Neville's silences or ominous warnings, "you don't want to go there."

The play put me in touch with my own reflections and vulnerabilities about growing old and attempts to claim love and romance. How that process changes is not as obvious as how I have changed and what it means to seek a mature love in a changing world. Rhea and Neville overcome the biggest obstacle, how to meet potential partners, through their accidental meeting one night when Rhea is attempting to catch a cab. They are not going in the same direction. This might very well be the theme of the relationship. Rhea wants commitment and Neville is not sure whether he wants it although iot is obsious he craved love as much as Rhea. Rhea was more willing to take risks to secure it than Neville was. An ironic twist, Neville is an "emotional coward" and Rhea the warrior. Some of the basic differences between men and women are explored in this complex play. Differences about how men and women pursue love interests differently and how men often equate it as more about sex than romance. Rhea defies all those stereotypes and is at times portrayed as a card waving feminist/womanist who clearly will not let any man take advantage of her. She is quick witted and intelligent and feisty!

The actors did not portray the smooth and polished performances on opening night one would expect two seasoned actors to portray, the play is running until May 2 and they still have time to get a really great play to look and sound as fine as it deserves to.

My regards to the playwright Stephanie Berry for a job well done! I suspect we will be hearing from her in the future and her career as a playwright looks more than a little promising!

Question: What are you doing to push yourself to greatness and to hone your talents and skills?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah