Clearly named after the magnum opus of spoken word artist Gil Scott-Heron, one might assume Faruq Hussein Bey’s, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a play based on the life of the legendary poet. It is not.
Instead it is more like a 60 minute love letter to Scott-Heron, an ode if you will, to the late artist and activist who died a little over a year ago. Using Scott-Heron’s music and poetry as inspiration, the show is divided into vignettes, each exploring a different issue of particular relevance to the Black community.
That’s not to say that Revolution… is a work relatable solely to African-Americans. The themes are universal and everyone will likely connect to at least one of the seven scenarios presented.
That said, the play, much like Scott-Heron’s music, is weighty, exploring head-on some pretty tough stuff – addiction, abortion, homosexuality. Luckily the four person ensemble has the endurance to withstand the emotional rigors of their characters, many of whom are at a spiritual crossroads.
Particular standouts include performances by Jasmine Jackson as Patience, a pregnant woman contemplating abortion and Louis E. Davis as Phoenix, her impassioned unborn son. Kofi Owusu, who juggles four sizeable roles, is heartbreaking as the gay son of an ailing mother and a homophobic father. In one of the show’s lighter moments, Todd Clark shines as Mr. Clarkson (go figure), a teacher whose dissection of Scott-Heron’s, “Whitey on the Moon,” both amuses and confuses his students. Stellar casting all around.
Unfortunately, the final climactic scene (and perhaps the most important one) felt disappointingly rushed, while a few of the vignettes dragged on just a minute or two longer than necessary. Likewise the set up between scenes often appeared cumbersome and allowed the audience ample time to converse amongst themselves.
But by and large, director Camille Kashaka cleverly officiates over a half dozen separate stories with near perfect precision and an eye on the big picture. Not to mention that Scenic Designer, Erin Cumbo’s fabulous statement-making panels deserve their own Fringe viewing, if not your closer look after the show.
Check out this opinionated play and be prepared to rethink your own ideas about the revolution… and download Gil Scott-Heron’s album to your iPod.
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised has 5 shows, ending July 29, 2012, at Mountain at Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC
Details and tickets
Victoria rates this 4 out of 5.