NY Theater Review By Marcina Zaccaria
Soho Rep. and The Play Company, in association with John Adrian Selzer, produce debbie tucker green’s “generations.”
“generations” was first performed at the National Theatre in London in 2005, and subsequently at the Young Vic in London. The U.S. Premiere of the play centers on three generations of a South African Family. The same words are repeated over and over – “I coached her to cook – I did… I was the cooker – she was the cookless – I was the cooker who coached the cookless… I… coached her to (cook)… She was a bad learner.”
When spoken by different members of the cast, the words take on new meaning. A cohesive thread is provided by the 13-member choir, led by Music Director Bongi Duma (The Lion King). The stellar cast includes Shyko Amos (An Octoroon), Mamoudou Athie,Khail Toi Bryant (The Lion King), Ntombikhona Dlamini (Sarafina!), Thuli Dumakude(The Lion King, Poppie Nongena), Jonathan Peck (The Lion in Winter), and Michael Rogers (born bad, Breakfast With Mugabe).
The chorus maintains all sides of the theater, as the tonal logic shifts throughout the play. The sound fills the stage, and warms the room with the music of South Africa. The lead actors cook at a functioning stove-top. The other performers glide through the audience as they carry on their everyday activities. Feeling the rhythm and pace of the show, each performer takes a moment to stand out and set themselves apart from the audience, seated near.
Set Designer Arnulfo Maldonado has transformed Soho Rep into a South African home. The red, blue, and yellow metal on the walls define the space where the people live. Soccer balls are on high shelves. Onions and other vegetables hang on the walls. Plastic seats are placed on top of red earth. It feels almost like an art installation.
Food for the show is sponsored by Madiba Restaurant. Director Leah C. Gardiner, who won an OBIE Award for the 2011 production of born bad, asks the audience to gain an authentic understanding of the character’s everyday lives. With “generations,” no detail is left unattended. The audience is left to think about homeland, and what makes sense over time. At the end of the 30 minute performance, audience members are free to remember what they saw and heard, and leave with the red earth under their feet.
PlayCo, now entering its 15 season, is an OBIE Award-winning Off Broadway theater production company that “develops and produces adventurous new plays from the U.S. and around the world.”
Soho Rep was founded in 1975, and has been in its theater on Walker Street since 1991. Over the last decade, Soho Rep. productions have won 18 OBIE Awards. In 2014, Soho Rep. was honored with a Drama Desk Award for Sustained Achievement.