April Yvette Thompson's autobiographically-inspired solo show is a complex portrait of racial tension and family pride.
Thompson plays a range of people including her younger self, her father Saul, her mother Lily, her Auntie Carolyn, and more. At first, some of Thompson's portrayals come across as overly broad, but as she spends more time with her primary characters, they become fully realized human beings, with both strengths and flaws. Indeed, this is not a candy-coated reminiscence. The lightness and humor of the first half of the solo play is necessary to understand how the hopes, dreams, and possibilities that Thompson's family held in the 1960s and early 1970s slowly gave way to disappointment, frustration, and anger. As racial tensions in Liberty City increase, one family member battles drug addiction, another finds comfort in the church, while still another engages in an extramarital affair.
Antje Ellermann's scenic design includes a number of separate environments, such as a kitchen and a home office, with Thompson visiting the different areas when speaking the part of the person most associated with that locale. Two large projection screens dominate the upper half of the stage, and video designer Tal Yarden fills them with an assortment of historical footage and on location shots.
The action of the play culminates in the riots, which were sparked when white police officers were acquitted of all charges in the fatal beating of a black suspect. While Thompson delivers the necessary contextual information, what she concentrates on within the play is her fifth grade self's struggle to get her younger brother and herself safely home. The narrative jumps from her perspective, to her mother's, to her father's as they each try to battle the chaos, find safety, and reunite with their loved ones. It's an incredibly powerful sequence, exquisitely performed by Thompson.