An imaginative drama by Kansas City playwright Christina Anderson, Catch a Creation is an edgy drama, which rotates in time between the mid-1960’s, the late 1980’s and 2014. Anderson creates of story filled with surprise and intrigue. It’s a dreamscape of a play which follows six people whose lives are touched by the strong presence, legacy and influence of Black Feminist Culture.
The play opens with thick luscious cotton clouds, enveloping hues of lavender, fuchsia, pink, indigo and sunset orange draped above the stage, as the turntables, in Jason Sherwood’s inventive set, rotate to bring San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge front and center.
This colorful adornment conveys the same beautiful audaciousness of the Black Creative LGBTQ community as does Anderson’s most unapologetic character Tami (Stephanie Weeks), who struts across the stage, switching her hips, a glass of white wine between her fingers, as she rants about her wills and absolute won’ts.
Director Nataki Garrett presents each of the characters in this same, take-it-or leave-it approach to the text that is emotionally gripping yet tender. She charges each scene with unexpected appearances through swinging doors and quick set changes in color and silhouette to suggest that the stakes in Creation are always high.
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This story captures the essence of Womanist Creative beings in a most serendipitous way. Stokes (Jonathan Bangs) and Riley’s (Shayna Small) young love is both driven and torn apart by obsession. An A G. K. Marche book inspires him to become a novelist and a secret affair with art professor, Tami, incites her to wander, dream and awaken new-found creativity in her lover’s life.
In the 60’s, G. K. Marche (Tiffani Bardour) has set out to become one of the most prolific writers of her time, much like Pulitzer Prize winning-author, Gwendolyn Brooks, even at the risk of losing her partner Natalie (Shauna Miles) who we later discover is related to someone in a future scene. Whether you are familiar with authors such as bell hooks, Cheryl Clarke, Jewelle Gomez, Sista Soulja, Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Audre Lourde or are learning about them for the first time, Catch a Creation places the context of their unique voices into the lives of Anderson’s imagined people.
This legacy of Black Female liberation is illustrated here in three major archetypes: the strong, accomplished yet lonely Black Female, the Afrofuturist Black Panther Political incarnate who justifies his/her cause for humanity and the soft-spoken gay intellectual who simply follows her dream, as portrayed by Marche.
The drama presents another kind of identity, “the most conscious black feminist” in the male role of Griffin (Lindsay Smiling) a Middle-Aged Stalwart Gentleman who becomes a voice of reason for Stokes.
Smiling gives an outstanding performance as the insecure Griffin in a scene that, for me, was a highlight of the play. Griffin is serious about becoming a loving father and emerging himself into society as a trustworthy citizen but has yet to shake the fear of taking the first step, calling an adoption agency. Smiling, a tall actor, is given a tiny phone for the scenes in which we watch him rehearse the call over several scenes. He clams up, locks up, and grunting in humiliation, gives up. He finally dials the agency and belts out a forceful awkward pitch about his qualifications to an automated telephone system.
How to Catch Creation at Baltimore Center Stage closes May 26, 2019. Details and tickets
Catch a Creation sparks a close examination of the Black Queer community, yes. It, also extends the notion that all forms of creation are art and art in all forms is creative, including one’s ability to decide, to frame and ultimately to create life.
Catch a Creation by Christina Anderson . Nataki Garrett, Director . Cast: Jonathan Bangs, Tiffani Bardour, Shauna Miles, Shayna Small, Lindsay Smiling and Stephanie Weeks. Jason Sherwood, Scenic Designer . Ivania Stack, Costume Designer . Xavier Peirce, Lighting Designer . Sabine Decatur, Production Dramaturg . Curtis Craig, Sound Designer & Composer . Lorraine Ressegger-Stone, Intimacy Coach . Danielle Teague-Daniels, Stage Manager . Alaine, Alldaffer, CSA and Lisa Donadio, Casting . Tori Heikenfeld, Production Assistant . Produced by Baltimore Center Stage . Reviewed by Kayla Harley.
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