Theatre, at its best, has the ability to be a powerful tool for political and social change. That means, right now in particular, #blacktheatrematters.
Word Becomes Flesh is a shining example of what hip-hop theatre can and should be: a combination of precise choreography, powerful language, and a striking message. The piece, written by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, directed by Psalmayene24, and choreographed by Tony Thomas, centers on the story of a young man and the birth of his first son.
Performed by an ensemble of five men, the piece is both intensely personal and surprisingly universal. The voice of the main character, performed by different performers at different points in his journey, addresses his unborn child directly- calling him “heartbeat” at first and shouting his newborn son’s name by the end. It is in these discussions with his son that the man reveals everything from the details of his son’s conception to memories about his own father to fears for what it means to raise a black son in the world today.
Tony Thomas’s choreography and Psalmayne24’s direction are so perfectly intertwined that it is impossible to praise them separately; the movement and physical imagery of the piece are not only a vehicle for Joseph’s words, but also an important piece of art in their own right.
WORD BECOMES FLESH
February 25 – March 26
at Anacostia Playhouse
2020 Shannon Place SE,
Washington, DC 20020
1 hour, no intermission
Tickets: $35 or $65, when combined with for colored girls…
Although the play addresses important political and social issues, the heaviness of those topics is lightened by the joy and humor the playwright finds in this young man’s journey towards fatherhood. The piece is brought to life by a powerful group of performers: Louis E. Davis, Chris Lane, Clayton Pelham, Jr., Gary L. Perkins III, and Justin Weaks. As a group, they take on the incredible challenge of a piece that shifts from deadly serious to uproariously funny, and perform the complicated, physically demanding choreography beautifully.
I can say, without hyperbole, it is one of the best and most innovative pieces of theatre I have ever seen and I highly recommended it to everyone, even people who think this isn’t their “thing.” I brought my husband, a fan of David Mamet-esque plays where people talk at each other, and he loved it as much as I did. Word Becomes Flesh is timely without being gimmicky, utterly moving without being depressing and, most importantly, it takes sparks an important discourse about what is happening in the world today.
Word Becomes Flesh by Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Directed by Psalmayene24. Featuring Louis E David, Chris Lane, Clayton Pelham, Gary L. Perkind III, and Justin Weaks. Set Design: Ethan Sinnott. Lighting Design: William K. D’Eugenio. Sound Design and Orginal Music: Nick tha 1da. Costume Design: Mari Rodgers. Choreography: Tony Thomas. Stage Manager: Keta Newborn. Assistant Stage Manager: Erin Syring . Produced by Theatre Alliance . Reviewed by Jessica Pearson.