Born Bad, winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer in an Affiliate Theatre 2004, written by debbie tucker green is now at the Soho Rep. It is that type of play that you don’t know what’s really happening until it’s over and then you still might not really know especially if the last line comes out garbled. A very important last line as it turns out, which clarifies.
Born Bad is chock full of unspoken subtext and silences. It is full of mysterious secrets. It is sleek in its presentation. And it seethes with untold issues. Issues remembered and not remembered. It is short.
There is this family. And you don’t care for them much. The stoic parents hardly look at each other let alone communicate. Mum (Elain Graham) has made a choice that upsets Dawta (Heather Alicia Simms) to distraction. Dad (Michael Rogers) sits in his armchair looking out into space. It is he who garbled the final all important line.
The set (Mimi Lien) consists of four overturned chairs and the upright armchair where Dad holds court – listening to everyone bicker back and forth. It is difficult to care if we don’t know what it is we should be caring about.
There are two other daughters. Sister #1 (Quincy Tyler Bernstine) who can’t or who refuses to remember pieces of this puzzling family saga and Sister #2 (Crystal A. Dickinson) who doesn’t want to know nothin’ about nothin’ and boils over with a festering anger. There is more said with a silence or a look which adds interest to this hidden issue drama aided by great lighting by Michael Chybowski.
Then there is Brother (LeRoy James McClain) caught up in all their agony and angst. With his own problem – a guy who doesn’t like to be touched. Everyone seems to be blaming everyone else for something that we slowly begin to discover throughout the play.
Director Leah C. Gardiner heightens the mystery with the constant changing of her stage pictures by having the actors either sitting or standing in different positions for each of the sometimes very short scenes that end in a blackout.
It’s beautiful to look at but not easy to comprehend. Born Bad is a repetitive, bombastic, surreal game of musical chairs about a dysfunctional family that ultimately comes up without anyone winning.
Through April 24th. www.sohorep.org Photo: Carol Rosegg
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