Farah Lawal Harris’ America’s Wives is an extended metaphor, really. Its central two characters are both married to a distant, narcissistic, unfair man named America.
His first wife is a haughty white woman named Mallory (a transfixing Karen Novack) while his newest wife, Olayemi (Billie Krishawn) is a Nigerian-American. But America, still not satisfied with a pair of wives, begins taking on more and more women. Mallory lords over them all in haughty, abusive fashion, saving much of her wrath for Olayemi.
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The play’s central conflict ensues after each woman has a mysterious encounter with Bald Eagle (Louis E. Davis), which causes both of them to show their true colors (in Olayemi’s case, unyielding love for her son; Mallory only demonstrates greed and selfishness), and puts one of them on trial for her life.
The myth in America’s Wives (a commissioned play for Fringe inspired by ancient stories), is, of course, the myths surrounding America itself. The extended analogy is a clever one, though it can feel strained throughout the work’s sixty minute run time. Davis proves to be a compelling narrator figure in the play, which draws the audience in as participants at times — he’s particularly arresting during a monologue where he finds everyone present complicit in Mallory’s guilt.
America’s Wives drives home the country’s racial injustices and, in particular, its citizens’ strange ability to love it even in the face of abuse or neglect. But one thing it isn’t is subtle.
America’s Wives by Farah Lawal Harris. Directed by Jared Shamberger. With Billie Krishawn, Louis E. Davis, and Karen Novack. Presented at Capital Fringe . Review by Missy Frederick.