Well, Robey Theatre is back and its choice for first production after Covid is a challenging one by Levy Lee Simon.
We find ourselves eavesdropping on twelve politically and philosophically illustrious Black iconic figures, brought from the afterlife by three Orisha African deities. The purpose is to hear their viewpoints on the state of their African descendants in America today.
After heart-breaking live footage of all too familiar racist killings, the trio asks their opinions on what causes these atrocities, exactly who is responsible, and how can people who are labeled as Black fight back.
The most powerful argument for militant pushback was Malcolm X (David Bollar) while Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (Garret Davis) and Maya Angelou (Kimberly Bailey) pleaded for peace and forgiveness. Most devastating was Ida B. Wells' (Quonta Beasley) description of a lynching and its aftermath. Most candid were Richard Pryor (Philip Bell), Tupac Shakur (Kyle Sparks) and Zora Neale Hurston (Vanja Renee). Most calmly measured were James Baldwin (Julio Hanson) and Bob Marley (Alex W.S.T. Chumley).
Most hot-headed was Dr. Francess Welsing Cress (Rosie Lee Hooks) whose passionate indictments almost silenced her opponents. Most indignant were Lorraine Hansberry (Tiffany Cole) and Nina Simone (Lashada Jackson). Most commanding was a Spirit Warrior (Ben Guillory) whose final argument was a reminder of the strength that shows a beleaguered people's triumph.
Produced and directed by Guillory, this deeply disturbing play reveals more injustice than anyone can bear and still live life with joy. Ironically, it opened the same week that, after a brutal interrogation, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed as the first African American woman to serve as a justice of the United States Supreme Court. The discussion continues!
The Robey Theatre, Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St, Downtown LA. Reservations: (213) 489-7402.
Photos by Jermaine Alexander.