For all of you looking for a message and superb acting, you will find it in the very promising play by Harrison David Rivers’ “When Last We Flew”.
However, the message of flight, of being free as a bird, to be able to live ones life as one wants to, is hampered by too many metaphors and feathery symbols that cause the play to be unnecessarily complicated. Blurring reality with fantasy doesn’t quite work completely, making “When Last We Flew” disjointed.
The main story of Paul (Jon-Michael Reese) – a black teenage boy in Kansas coming to terms with his homosexuality is quite clear. His difficulty in communicating with his parents – Marian (Karen Pittman) and Fresh (Wade Allain- Marcus) who has left them and his guilt over thinking his gayness has caused Fresh to leave have him locked in his bathroom reading a copy “Angels in America” stolen from the local library.
He has sequestered himself in the safety of his bathroom to read, have sexual fantasies, masturbate and ruminate on his angst ridden life. Mr. Reese gives a believable, honest and compassionate performance. Playwright and character are obviously influenced by the Tony Kushner epic play.
But look out. Upsetting the balance and giving a standout, remarkable performance is Rory Lipede which could catapult this young Afro-American girl far beyond the Fringe. Soaring like an eagle she takes full command of the Lucille Lortel stage and her character, Natalie. As the only Afro-American girl in a Catholic School who is expelled for her activism and sent immediately to Public School, Rory Lipede is indeed the high spirited firecracker she is described as. She has a deep set passion that beams from her eyes. Hers is a performance to be remembered.
Wondering where Natalie gets this strength from we meet her head strong mother Pricilla (Tamela Aldrige) in another fine portrayal.
An openly gay school mate, Ian (Christopher Larkin) is in love with Paul. To no avail until the intervention of The Angel (Allison Mackie – in various guises) who helps Paul to discover and accept and guide the other characters to enlightenment.
The quality of acting is exceptional and the direction by Colette Robert is intriguing. With some more work “When Last We Flew” could really take flight.
www.WhenLastWeFlew.com Photos: Karen Rusch