by: Paulanne Simmons
After six sold-out performances at The Harlem Arts Festival, PopUp Theatrics has extended the run of its new show, Broken City. Conceived by PopUP Theatrics partners, Ana Margineanu, and Tamilla Woodard in collaboration with playwright Peca Stefan. the site-specific production includes artists from National Black Theatre, Liberation Theatre, HARLEM9, and Harlem Natives.
Broken City is actually an amalgamation of five separate shows: Broken Dreams, Broken Identity, Broken Life, Broken Spell and Broken Trail. All five performances are centered around Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park and all join together in a communal celebration at the end.
Although each show tells a different story, they all have a common theme: the breaking down of boundaries between city and stage, performers and audience, and reality and fantasy. And they all use one of New York City’s oldest and most diverse neighborhoods as their setting.
In the show I saw, Broken Spell by Peca Stefan, directed by Ana Margineanu, I shared a picnic with performers Danielle Click, Tayi Sanusi and Caitlin Zoz, who play two young ladies and their prospective landlord. The landlord is looking for tenants with supernatural powers for reasons disclosed towards the end of the show. But Stefan has also including many wry comments about the cost of real estate in New York City and the gentrification of Harlem.
Although, for the most part, the actors ignored my presence, there were other times they looked deeply into my eyes, perhaps searching for spiritual qualities I may or may not possess. For the record, I did not blink.
My guest saw Broken Trail, also by Stefan and directed by Tamilla Woodard. In this show, the audience navigates the streets of Harlem, escorted by a preacher who tries to convince them to join the church of Tell It Like It Is, meets two young ladies who lead the group in dance, and encounters a man who tries to sell them Harlem brownstones. My guest declined to purchase (perhaps a mistake).
There are few opportunities to see New York City in such an imaginative and innovative fashion. Broken City is an opportunity that should not be missed.
Broken City runs through July 11. http://www.eventbrite.com/e/broken-city-harlem-tickets-17247336247