Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In the Continuum

‘IN THE CONTINUUM’ emotionally moves and educates audience at CPT

‘IN THE CONTIUUM’ the two-woman play which is now being staged at Cleveland Public Theatre, began as a graduate school acting project.

When Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter were students in New York University's graduate program, they discovered that each was working on a play about AIDS and its effect on black women. Gurira set her story in her home country of Zimbabwe. Salter’s script was set in her native Los Angeles. The two decided to combine their two scripts into one. Obviously, the idea was good as the resulting work, ‘IN THE CONTINUUM,’ went on to be named one of the ten best plays of the year.

The play centers on Abigail and Nia, the play's protagonists, who appear to have nothing in common other than being black and pregnant. Abigail is a newscaster in Zimbabwe, married to an accountant and pregnant with their second child. Nia is an outspoken unmarried pregnant teenager living in LA. Interestingly, when Abigail speaks of her dreams she sounds more American than African. Nia, in her unschooled ways, sounds more like a resident of a Third World country. Then we find out that Abigail's husband cheats on her, and Nia has no hope of marrying the father of her child, a highly recruited high school basketball player. And they both have HIV, given to them by their philandering sex partners.

The script, which is not preachy, is mesmerizing. Though the concept sounds depressing, it isn’t. The play is creatively developed, often filled with laughs, and makes it points without lecturing.

It was interesting sitting in an audience on opening night that was composed of many African Americans. As is the oral tradition of many American blacks, based on the oral tradition of church preachers and political speakers, there was much talk back to the cast. Agreement as to the statements being made and disagreement with some of the decisions the characters make were accented by audience vocal reactions. It made the experience encompassing and added to the realism of the authors’ words.

The CPT production, under the wise direction of Tony Sias, is well paced, of high intensity, and filled with the proper humor. Kimberly Brown as Nia and Bianca Sams as Abigail are excellent. Their talent goes beyond playing the two women, as each also portrays numerous other characters. They are believable throughout.

Capsule judgement: ‘IN THE CONTINUUM’ is an excellent script, that receives a stellar performance at Cleveland Public Theatre. This is a play that says much about world conditions and the international AIDS crisis, in a real and compelling way. It is a must see!