Up & Coming Weekly

May 31, 2022

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 21 of 28

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM JUNE 1 - 7, 2022 UCW 21 I was recently allowed to get a sneak peek at the Gilbert eater's produc- tion of "Fairview," the 2019 Pulitizer Prize-winning play by Jackie Sibbles Drury. Subsequently, I can say it was some of the most powerful, uncomfortable, and truly bizarre theater I have ever seen, though "experienced," is a much better word. e play opens into the living room of what could easily be any Ameri- can's home. Tasteful furniture, a nice rug, and a dining room table all speak to the banal existence of your average middle-class family. "Fairview's" take on this ubiqui- tous image is the Frasiers, an African American family who in their exag- gerated wholesomeness, bring to mind the groundbreaking sitcom perfection of "e Cosby Show." ere's comically hysterical Bev- erly (Jacquelyne Johnson-Hill), who needs everything to be just so for her mother's birthday dinner. Her long- suffering husband, Dayton (Shaun McMillan), works almost too hard to keep his exasperated wife happy. e arrival of Beverly's passive-aggressive, meddling sister Jasmine (J. Ra'Chel Fowler) brings some laugh-out-loud dialogue, and the youngest Frasier, teenage Keisha (Jalani Rapu), com- pletes a family that looks just like any other. In her quest to "make everything absolutely perfect," Beverly burns the birthday cake (of course), faints dra- matically in poor Dayton's arms, and the stage goes black. At this point in the play, things go significantly off the rails. Act II opens with the arrival of new voices, but the stage is dressed the same. A white man (Justin Gore-Pike) and a white woman (Amanda Briggs) begin a contentious conversation about race as a construct and what race they might choose if such a thing were possible. e incredibly cringe-worthy dialogue here is uncomfortable but is one of the more interesting takes on benign racism that I've seen. It's racism born of stereotype-driven ignorance that doesn't seek to hate but is equally destructive as it seeks to paint minorities with a broad, inca- pable brush. In the background of this racially charged conversation, the Frasiers repeat Act I without speaking any of their lines as another white man (Gabe Terry) and woman (Molly Hamelin) join the conversation hap- pening in the foreground. e cast is now complete: four unnamed white spectators to comment and observe the lives of four black people, much like they're enjoying a television show. It's a lot. An increasingly angry conversation about what black people are or aren't continues as the Frasiers go past the point of the previous action in the background. e silent blacks and the chatty whites make for chaotically fascinating theater as the audience confronts the larger conversation threading its way through the scene. Act II ends in an unhinged mono- logue delivered to the audience by the play's loud, swaggering, white, cis-male antagonist. e message, which I won't write about here, will definitely ruffle the feathers of those listening closely. Act III, the last in the play, is by far the most confusing. Culminating in a bizarre twist, the play arrives at its message with a shaken, disoriented audience in tow. Frankly, I was happy to see it end — I could finally release the breath I'd been holding. Chosen for its contentious subject matter by the Gilbert's artistic direc- tor, Lawrence Carlisle III, the play's director, Deannah Robinson, meets the challenges of the material with a deft hand. Creating some truly funny mo- ments in a play that seems oppres- sively heavy at times, Robinson clearly understood the assignment and creates a space that's hard to stay in but impossible to leave. Hill, Fowler, McMillan, and Rapu do an excellent job of silently replicating their performances in Act II, while Hamelin, Terry, Briggs, and Gore-Pike commit to performances that are as grotesque as they are brilliant. e chemistry evident between the play's actors is a high point of the production. While the play's com- mentary almost certainly made for some awkward initial read-throughs, we're left with the feeling these actors became a little closer throughout rehearsals. It makes the tougher bits easier to swallow. Technical director Vicki Lloyd's tidy set and expert lighting design plunge the audience into a bizarre world of meta-theater where we, the audience, become the watchers of the watchers of a show not meant for ei- ther of us. Her skillful direction moves the play through transitions that seem simultaneously seamless and jarring. e haunting spotlight on newcomer Rapu in her closing monologue is an image that is sure to stick with audi- ences long after the play ends. "Fairview" is a play of outrageous demands and unflinching permis- sions. It allows itself to be the crude, vulgar uncle at a family barbecue and demands you don't dare leave the table. I recommend that you grab a seat and settle in for a necessary conversa- tion. "Fairview"runs through June 12. e Gilbert eater is located at 116 Green St. above the Fascinate U Children's Museum. Tickets can be purchased at www. gilberttheater.com/ or 910-678-7186. EVENT 'Fairview' is a necessary but uncomfortable experience by ASHLEY SHIRLEY ASHLEY SHIRLEY, Staff Writer. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcomin- gweekly.com. 910-484-6200 Contributing Writers Wanted Join the Up & Coming team Use your creative talents to promote community events (people, concerts, theater, festivals, sports, etc.) Basic writing and interviewing skills needed Intern opportunities available for college students Contact editor@upandcomingweekly.com (910) 484-6200 Contributing Writers Wanted Don't Just Read About it, Write about it! Join the Up & Coming Weekly team • Use your creative talents to promote community events (people, concerts, theater, festivals, sports, etc.) • Basic writing and interviewing skills needed • Intern opportunities available for college students Contact editor@upandcomingweekly.com (910) 484-6200

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