Review of The Light at the Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    February 11, 2019
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    Loy A. Webb’s debut play The Light, is making its NYC debut as the debut play in MCC Theater’s new home on West 52nd Street. That’s a lot of firsts for one production, but the canny folks at MCC who produce the annual Miscast fundraiser that has both the theater community and the public clamoring for a seat, knew what they were doing by picking The Light for this prestigious spot.

    The Light is the full package – great writing, superb acting, sensitive direction, excellent production values and timely, relevant subject matter presented with honesty, humor, dignity, passion and love. A powerful and affecting combination.

    The Light is a two-character one-act play set in Chicago, where it had its world premiere at the New Colony a year ago, and where it won a Joseph Jeff award for “Best New Play.” Genesis (Mandi Masden), a school principal, and Rashad (McKinley Belcher III), a fire fighter, are a young 30-something black couple on the eve of the 2nd anniversary of their first date. Although they banter and tease each other, it is very clear that there is no malice – it’s all from a place of affection, that’s who they are. There’s deep love and respect between the two of them.

    Which is why, when a real rift opens up between them on what should be one of the happiest nights of their lives, it increases the devastation and shock for them both. Although they both try to avoid the looming crisis, her need to hide old wounds while holding fast to her principles, and his blindness to his own prejudices make the clash inevitable.

    What makes this production of The Light so special starts with playwright Loy A. Webb’s tackling of a sensitive and not often explored subject matter, and her fine ear for dialog. Logan Vaughn’s light touch at the helm and excellent use of space allow the actors to use themselves fully. And Mandi Masden and McKinley Belcher III give us everything they’ve got. And they’ve got chemistry and talent to spare. Ms. Masden gives an award-worthy performance as the strong and sassy but finally empty Genesis. An ironic and apt name for a woman who has spent her life nurturing other people and gets to the point where she has nothing left to give.

    Remember the old one about Ginger Rogers doing it backwards and in heels? Well, we need to come up with a new one about women who do it while being black…or brown…or Asian. Go see The Light and I bet you’ll agree with me.

    (Photo by Joan Marcus)

    "Loy A. Webb’s The Light begins with a marriage proposal. But after an enthusiastic “Yes! Yes!” it swerves into darker terrain. It recalls a moment when a woman said no and wasn’t heard. A play — sometimes dubious and sometimes devastating — about sexual assault and its aftershocks, it’s a rom-com, a drama and very nearly a tragedy. Do we have a word for that yet? Do we want one? Ms. Webb’s play, ardently acted, continues the theatrical conversation around sexual assault, joining very recent works like Usual GirlsWhat the Constitution Means to me and The Pussy Grabber Plays."
    Alexis Soloski for New York Times

    "The Light, which opened Sunday at MCC’s brand-new Robert W. Wilson Theater Space, is a fast, sometimes funny, and ultimately furious 70 minutes, and what makes it all the more remarkable is that Webb tells the story of Rashad and Genesis in real time."
    Robert Hofler for The Wrap