Patricia Ione Lloyd’s Eve’s Song is a searing exposé of what it means to be black and female in America today. Much has been talked, written and protested about the perils of young black men in this country recently, with good reason. Racial disparity in job opportunities, incarceration rates and unemployment rates are well documented and discussed. Violence against black men, especially by law enforcement, has been the cause of national attention and debate for several years, spawning whole movements such as Black Lives Matter. But the specific toll on black women, and the violence done to them, often gets buried on the back pages of newspapers. With Eve’s Song, Patricia Ione Lloyd does what women have always done through the ages, looks with compassion, humor, insight, bravery and unwavering strength at what has to be done, and takes it on.
Eve’s Song combines mystical realism with, if you will, kitchen sink realism. On one hand, it is the story of Deborah (De’Adre Aziza), a black, soon-to-be-divorced suburban, upper middle-class, working woman. She has two teenaged children, Lauren (Kadijah Raquel), a 19-year-old gay college freshman still living at home, and Mark (Karl Green) a 14-year-old, wise-ass, geeky high school freshman. Deborah runs a tight ship. She doesn’t allow bad thoughts or bad behavior to touch her or her children. She doesn’t allow the outside world to taint her life. She keeps it all at bay and insists that she and her children perform to the absolute best standards. If Mark and Lauren squabble at the dinner table, she shuts it down.
We quickly learn that’s what Deborah does with everything – shuts it down. But it’s clear that it’s not a foolproof system. Because while she can’t admit what she really thinks and feels to her children, she does talk to the audience in a bubble that her children can’t hear or see. While she tells her children proudly that her Fitbit showed that she walked 5,000 steps at lunch, she tells the audience why she needed to go for a walk:
“A new secretary asked me to help her make copies for the morning meeting. And I said my name is Deborah Johnson. I am the vice president of acquisitions. Why are you asking me to make copies? In the meeting my boss kept on saying ‘What Deborah is saying is’ after everything I said. I took an early lunch and went for a walk. I needed a release.”
It’s not a foolproof system because Deborah has passed on her anger to Lauren and her fears to Mark. They both struggle with figuring out for themselves if they can live with their mother’s solutions. Like the anger that leaks out of Deborah that she simply cannot contain, there are ghosts that float across the stage. At first, they peek out of windows, and flit from doorways for a moment. But they start getting more insistent and one by one they take the stage and tell their stories and demand recognition. They’re the ghostly nightmares of the fate that awaits unlucky black women, and they ramp up the growing feeling of calamity along with Mark’s obsessive watching of news stories about violence against young black men.
Eve’s Song is a remarkably sophisticated and nuanced play to have been written by someone as young as Ms. Lloyd. But she seems to be a remarkable and eloquent person. The TEDx Broadway talk she gave this spring is evidence. I dare you to take the ten minutes and twenty-one seconds it takes to watch it and not fall in love with her and run out and buy a ticket to her play at the Public Theater.
(Photo by Joan Marcus)
What the popular press says...
"That gap between story and symbol is typical of Eve’s Song, which remains a smart, vivid concept still in search of full dramatic development. What it has to say about black lives in peril is genuinely terrifying, but mostly in the way that sobering statistics or news analyses are."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"A pro’s pro, director Jo Bonney guides the cast on a disquieting journey from humor to tragedy; newcomer Raquel is especially impressive as the sensitive Lauren, dismayed to find that her sexual awakening brings with it a growing political consciousness. As plays about racial violence flood New York stages in an overdue cascade, Lloyd rises above the tide on the strength of her original voice. Guess who’s coming to dinner? Someone you thought was dead and buried."
Regina Robbins for Time Out New York
External links to full reviews from popular press...