Saturday, May 27, 2017

“Massacre (Sing to Your Children) challenges at convergence continuum

There is darkness.  Suddenly there is screaming and yelling from off-stage, the stage lights snap quickly up, bright red, casting eerie shadows.  A door bursts open, 7 people come stumbling through the doorframe, each covered with blood, and wielding an instrument of destruction…knives, screwdriver, rake, machete.  Someone wedges a chair under the doorknob.  They all look and sound energized, out of control, on a high. 

Thus starts Jose Rivera’s “Massacre (Sing to Your Children),” now on stage at convergence continuum

Jose Rivera, who was born in Puerto Rico, comes from a family of storytellers.  His family moved to mainland USA when he was 4.  He is noted for incorporating his life experiences into his plays with the spotlight on his Puerto Rican and small town New York experiences as well as focusing on family, sexuality, religion, spirituality and the occult.

He has written for the stage and television, but, he is probably best known for his adaptation of “The Motorcycle Diaries,” which led, in 2005, to his being the first Puerto Rican to be nominated for an Oscar in the category of” Best Adapted Screenplay.”

“Massacre (Sing to Your Children)” is said to be, “A Rorschach Tests-of-a-play whose narrative loopiness, supernatural meanings and political allegory will haunt and confound each audience member in a different way.”

Rivera exposes the audience to a group of “everyday” people, living in a small town, who appear to have their sights set on the revenge of Joe, an outsider who came to town, gained power and authority, and has, in the view of these citizens,  used it to control mistreat others.  

The blood-covered townsfolk are people who are filled with hatred and want retribution for the destruction of the society they had known.  They speak of having endured rape, child molestation, murder, blackmail, concentration camps, sacrifices, and bad faith.

All “these things” happened after Joe came to town five years ago.

Using abstract poetic language, which is often interlaced with swearing, Rivera veers off into undeveloped and underdeveloped ideas, causing confusion over what is real and what is made up.  

If the script hadn’t been given its first staging in 2007, it would be easy to assume that Rivera was writing an allegory, placing a focus on the Donald Trump and Fox News world of alternate facts.  Several times the line, “Did we deserve this?” is asked.  It is a question that those opposed to the present DC administration ask on a regular basis.

The con-con production, under the direction of the theater’s artistic director, Clyde Simon, is vivid, well-paced and often confusing. 

The cast varies in their acting depth.  Some lines sound flat, a memorized flow of words with little attempt to create meaning, and characterizations replace character development.  On the other hand, at times the speeches mesmerize. 

Brian Westerley immerses himself in Joe.  He nicely textures the role.  Lucy Bredeson-Smith’s hollow eyes, are the key to Vivy, a school teacher who is confused and lost.  Kelsey Rubenking is believable as a lost soul whose outlet to her feelings is in writing somewhat childish songs.  She displays a nice singing voice.

The rest of the cast consists of Wesley Allen, Dennis Burby, Jamal Davidson, Beau Reinker, and Hillary Wheelock.

Capsule Judgement: “Massacre (Sing to Your Children)” is an abstract play whose meaning will depend on an individual’s views of the world, and their willingness to search for the author’s intent and purpose.  This is a script and production for playgoers who like to probe for ideas with no need for clarity of ideas or outcomes.

“Massacre (Sing to Your Children)” runs through June 10, 2017, at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s gentrifying Tremont neighborhood.  For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to

Coming up at con-con:
“Illuminated” a world premiere by Katie O’Keefe (June 22-23)
”Neighbors” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Terrence Spivey (July 7-29)