Dear Mapel, written and performed by Psalmayene 24, is a theatrical exploration of his relationship with his deceased father currently in workshop development at Mosaic Theater. Structured as intimate letters to his father, he presents a collage of memories, feelings, and queries to communicate with his estranged father as he ponders – how do you grieve and mourn for someone who impacted your life so intensely without being a part of it?
In this first half of what will become a full production in the next year, the play is presented in seven sections which shine a light on the growing pains and social awareness of Gregory, Psalmayene 24’s given name. When he shares his decision to rename himself, he relays a sense of resolve, self-discovery, awareness and self-actualization. The passages are a stunning self- exploration that captivate, from the first image to the final desperate query, a plea for his father to hear him, to see him. Psalmayene’s expansive heart and incredible writing talents provide access to deep, rich and personal reflections about this part of his life that he himself has only recently been able to face and acknowledge.
In those provocative, hilarious, heart wrenching segments, he shares his budding sexual awareness, social prowess, educational lessons, and societal stratification in his native Brooklyn. With colorful, prosaic charm he describes his experiences while traversing cultural attitudes, whether jamming among the bro’s in the ‘hood, or as the only person of color with his school buds. In one scene, he describes what happens when jostling with a gaggle of white buddies. One of them calls him the N-word. They all freeze and tense. He tosses out a derogatory white term, and they seem to settle but nothing matches the historical legacy of that word and in that instant the atmosphere shifted, changed. No going back.
In “Heather Lee” he recalls the impact of writing his first song to get in good graces with a childhood crush. “Paradise” is a kaleidoscopic hip-hopping traipse through the 90’s and meeting the love of his life, while the “Medium” brings us closest to his emotional epicenter in his recounting the few moments of connection with his father — and his Dad’s other family.
The video stream format is engaging with camera operation, urban gritty set choices – Psalmayene at a desk, standing and rendering spoken word, or at a seedy dive bar – percussionist Jabari Exum pulsing a beat, his vocals and musical highlights making him a valuable ensemble player.
Known for her explosive action-packed creations, director Natsu Onoda Power hits a powerful stride with Psalmayene’s text. A mastermind of animation, her drawings and figures flit across the screen. Power even incorporates a set of illustrations from a talented youngster to help tell a touching story of a grade school crush.
As the segments proceed, Psalmayene 24’s trusted voice and heartfelt direct camera approach bring you into his quest, sharing pivotal moments of his life, snapshots to share with the father he barely knew, a man who only minimally acknowledged him. He puts up a strong veneer of shrugging it off, but in this current age of technology, we can look into his eyes and see flickers of hurt that he carefully brushes away to move on and forward. His sharing strengthens us all and somehow seeps into our own vulnerabilities, fortifying us with the will to tackle our own quests—and ghosts.
Even at this workshop stage, Dear Mapel is a fascinating theatrical portal into the inner world of one of the most talented and creative artists in the metro region, and perhaps even into our own inner worlds. See it and be touched, moved, awed and entertained.
Dear Mapel . Written and Performed by Psalmayene 24 . Director and Production Designer – Natsu Onoda Power; Cast: Psalmayene 24; Percussionist—Jabari Exum; Video FX and Tech Support—VidCo; Illustrations—Natsu Onoda Power and Caden Fullerton; Editor, live media Director—Taylor Verrett; Dramaturg – Jocelyn Clarke; Videography by Emic Films; Director Photography—Chris Wren; Stage Manager — Michael Donnay; Production Manager—Chris Banks; Produced by Mosaic Theater . Reviewed by – Debbie Jackson.
Dear Mapel closes October 31, 2020.
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