Review by Tulis McCall
25 Mar 2010
Well, this wasn’t dreadful. It was confusing as a box of worms though.
In brief – this is the story of an Ethiopian man, Abebe (Willilam Jackson Harper) who is living with a family in a non specific area of the United States that is suffering from a drought as the story begins. Pickle (Myra Lucretia Taylor) is grieving over the loss of her son, her father and her husband during Katrina. Her mental state is precarious, and her daughter H.J. (Kianne Muschet) is worried that she might not make it. Abebe (pronounced Ah-bay-bay) is a welcome balance and relief to this twosome. He is studying ecology as well as religion and has a lot to say with a voice of reason and hope. Into this mix is introduced a young boy Tay, (Joshua King) who has become mute since the murder/suicide of his family. Abebe befriends the boy, as do Pickle and H.J.
We travel through time back to Ethiopia to see the devastation caused by a hydro-electric dam, then back to America seven years later to see what has happened to Pickle and H.J. Abebe is a journeyman of sorts who is constantly looking for ways to help and heal. When anything he has done fails to achieve the desired results he is heart broken but rallies himself for the next challenge. He is an inspiring kind of guy.
That’s about it, and as you can see there is really no story here. It is more of a tale of a man who cares about not only souls, but the planet where we are living. This care revolves around his belief that clean water is a gift from God and should be treated as such. Like freedom, it is a right. And like freedom, Americans are either wasting it or charging a fee for it.
As written, however, this belief comes across rather like one note being played on a violin. Kia Corthron pleads the case against bottled water and mismanaged resources eloquently, but we she never ties the characters firmly to the facts. An audience is pulled in by characters, not by ideas. We do hear a few other subjects, but none of them connect up to a story make. Whoever read this script and okay’d it for production must have thought that a theme was the same as a story. It isn’t, and that’s too bad.
The actors all do a fine job with the tale, but with nothing to hang on to they often end up flapping in the wind looking for a direction. I have seen only Taylor in other work and know how grounded and clear she can be. She does what she can here, but it is not enough to give this production life. And one final note: this is a play that concerns ecology – bravo to that – so why do we have Abebe marveling at a flush toilet in the first scene and then flushing it three or four times, just to experience the thrill of clean clear water? It is a moment that mystifies, and turns out to be only one of many.
"Venturesome but disjointed drama."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"Maddening, disjointed, overly elliptical work."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"The drifting drama seems interminable."
Michael Sommers forNewJerseyNewsroom
"An odd little play, teaching and preaching while providing only fitful entertainment."
Michael Kuchwara for Associated Press
External links to full reviews from popular press...