TheaterMania Logo

Born Bad

Debbie Tucker Green's engaging one-act drama at Soho Rep focuses on a family avoiding a difficult subject. logo
Elain Graham, Michael Rogers, Heather Alicia Simms,
and Crystal A. Dickinson in Born Bad
(© Carol Rosegg)
Debbie Tucker Green's engaging new one-act play, Born Bad, now at Soho Rep, opens with Dawta (Heather Alicia Simms), the first born of four children, cursing her Mum (Elain Graham) out in an extended rant that makes up the second of 13 short, pointed scenes in this modern family drama. There's a sense from the beginning that something profoundly wrong happened to Dawta as a child, but Green is content to let it float ominously in between the lines for most of the 60-minute running time as her wounded characters talk around what they really want to talk about.

It's a clever, if well-worn, minimalist device -- one that's been pioneered by master playwrights such as Edward Albee and David Mamet and overused by countless others -- but Green makes it plausible that her characters would do everything they could to avoid talking about this deep secret. The vignette scene structure serves the play exceedingly well, stringing us along with glimpses of the trauma festering beneath the surface and presenting tableaux flashes that are as fractured as the family they depict.

As might be expected, Dawta gets some of the most emotionally charged lines. She confronts her Mum early on: "And I'll letcha look in my face now yu wanna, I dunno what you wanna see" -- and never relents. Mum refuses to look, perhaps out of guilt, but her justification for Dawta's accusation is simply that she was "born bad."

Dawta's two sisters believe this as well, if only as a way to hold onto their memories of a happier childhood, while Brother, who is the lone supporter of Dawta's accusations, has his own reasons for believing her. He's much more mild mannered though, acting as nice foil for the incendiary protagonist.

Under the direction of Leah C. Gardiner, the talented cast -- which also includes Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Crystal A.Dickinson, LeRoy James McClain, and Michael Rogers -- confidently navigates the material with flair, bringing weight to the no-frills dialogue. And even if the ending unfortunately arrives too quickly, there's a lot to like about Green's sharp, emotionally charged style.

Tagged in this Story