photos by Chasi Annexy
Is that a statue or a real person?
I couldn’t imagine being in character and rigidly in place for pre-show up until start time. But somehow, the actors did. I almost felt like an outsider peeking into a home that I had no right to be in. Before I can figure out my feelings, the lights go dark and the rotating platform that also serves as the set (4 separate settings) begins to move. Sojourners has officially started. We are immediately introduced to our main character, Abasiama (Chinasa Ogpuagu), going through the pains of pregnancy. The Houston apartment is artistically and most accurately decorated to match its 1970’s era.
Our lead character is charming and playful when we meet her, only to be a outdone by her over-enthusiastic husband Ukpong, played by Hubert Point-Du Jour. It’s then we learn through their interactions that they were arranged to be married by their fathers and, from their attire — she is wrapped in traditional Nigerian garb and he in a patterned dress shirt, leather coat, hat and jeans — they aren’t on the same page. This message becomes much clearer as the play goes on, as Ukpong and Abasiama have different ideas of what the American Dream should be. Sojourners deals with different cultures coming to America for a better life, but also falling for its irresistible charm.
The cast is small in size, but their combined interactions make for great storytelling. The dynamic between Abasiama and hilarious southern prostitute Moxie (Lakisha Michelle May) is fun to watch. At first glance, these two couldn’t be anything alike; however, over the course of time their relationship is essentially co-dependent and beautiful to watch. Two Black women just getting along with one another and being supportive.
Rounding out the cast is Chinaza Uche’s Disciple. I won’t spoil the story, but his character is one I can’t quite figure out and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to know if he’s good or bad. He’s intriguing, to say the least, and he and Moxie deliver one of the most emotional scenes of the play.
It was cool to watch a play told from the point of view of a native Nigerian-born woman, who has integrated into American culture. She is trying to maintain her own cultural values without compromising herself, but also trying to adjust to American life. There’s a moment when she’s eating a traditional Nigerian dish when her husband convinces her to try pickles, and another character gets her hooked on Snickers bars. Little moments like that made me feel like I was having these new American experiences for the first time as well. I felt her urgency as she tried her best to give in to the American dream but found it not to be all it was cracked up to be. She must also acknowledge whether her own cultural beliefs are good or bad.
A major theme that I took away from the show was choices. We all have the ability to make choices and the ones we make don’t just impact us, but also those around us. It’s a choice that Abasiama makes in the end that will have the audience leaving with lots of questions.
Performances for Sojourners at Playwrights Realm run January 25 – 30: Monday – Wednesday, Friday & Saturday at 7:30 PM; February 1 – 6: Monday – Friday at 7:30 PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 7:30 PM; February 9 – 13: Tuesday -Saturday at 7:30 PM. Tickets range in price from $25 to $35 and can be purchased through TicketCentral.com, by calling (212) 279-4200, 12pm to 8pm daily, or by visiting the Ticket Central box office at 416 W. 42nd Street.
Michael James Scott Returns to the Broadway Cast of Aladdin
Michael James Scott recently mounted the Australian production of Aladdin starring as the Genie. Now he’s ready to return to the cast at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway. He will be joined by the same Aladdin from the Australian company, Ainsley Melham.
Scott will play a limited engagement February 15 through September 15. He is no stranger to this show in the least bit. He’s currently playing the role of the Genie on the national tour and also opened the show five years ago as a member of the original company.
While he’s on Broadway for the limited engagement, Broadway’s current Genie Major Attaway, will replace him on tour.
Once On This Island’s Hailey Kilgore Will Make Her Solo Concert Debut!
Tony & Grammy Nominee Hailey Kilgore will make her solo concert debut at Feinstein’s/54 Below this month! The Once On This Island star makes her debut following the closing of the Tony-winning revival, and she’s clearly got more stories to tell!
The concert entitled Mirrors is a night of celebration including the music that has influenced her meteoric rise. On January 30th 9:30 pm she shares her personal life story as a young girl to a young woman on the Broadway stage.
The 19-year-old vocalist has a set list that ranges from Jason Robert Brown to Alicia Keys. One thing we can say is that this show will sell out! So, stop waiting for life to begin and mark your calendars.
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