Announcement: Encore performance of Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks and presented by Songs of KARIBU Performing Arts Company this Friday, May 2nd at 8pm at the Alchemy of Acting Studios, 115 Martin Luther King Drive, between Pryor and Peachtree Streets, in Downtown Atlanta.
Tickets will only be sold at the door. Donations start at $10.00. Any donation over $25.00 will receive recognition in their next playbill. Visit Facebook for more information.
Okay, now back to the regularly scheduled program…
I had the pleasure of watching the final dress rehearsal for Topdog/Underdog last Thursday. As you may remember, I interviewed Amina McIntyre, Co-founder of Songs of KARIBU Performing Arts Company, a few weeks ago, so she invited me to see their last run-through before the opening of their inaugural production.
Directed by Mia Kristin Smith, Co-founder of Songs of KARIBU Performing Arts Company, the story eavesdrops on the lives of two African-American brothers. Lincoln, played by Jermal Collins, is a former Three-card Monte street hustler who has left the fast life for an honest job portraying Abraham Lincoln, in whiteface, during the final moments of his life at a local arcade. The younger Booth, played by Duran, is vigorously pressing through life with one ultimate goal, to follow in the footsteps of his brother’s former life in the streets.
Though abandoned by their adulterous parents as teens, the brothers have maintained a tight bond and now share Booth’s rented apartment. However, like most siblings, the viewpoints and opinions about life that were once shared have now evolved and taken individual paths. As Lincoln and Booth have matured and experienced the blunt realities of adulthood, each has developed his own philosophy and methods for dealing with what life presents.
As Lincoln’s personality is revealed, it’s obvious that his previous hard-charging, fast-living ways have left him burned out. Gone is the confident hustler who once pulled down a living from city street corners. Now separated from his wife, living with his younger brother and facing a layoff from the best job he’s ever had, he’s arrived at a crossroad and is unsure of his next move.
Still wrapped in the hurt from his parent’s departure, Booth appears to survive solely off bravado and his aspiration to reclaim the glory left behind on the streets by his older brother. With an ever-present handgun, he brags about stealing, women, money and, surprisingly, having a plan for his life. But in Booth’s moments of solitude, you understand that his brimming confidence is mainly a prop for shielding his need for affection from Grace, his on-again, off-again girlfriend, and the approval of the person he admires most, Lincoln.
As the storyline unfolds, both characters are forced to drink down a cocktail of blended emotions: happiness, disappointment, stress, regret, indecisiveness and sorrow. With every scene change, the decisions made by Lincoln and Booth, as well as those who have touched their lives, compound upon one another until their relationship can no longer withstand the weight.
The story’s ending not only leaves a permanent mark on the brother’s relationship, but also fulfills, ironically, the long-running “joke” put into motion at their births by their parents.
At curtain call, I was left incredibly impressed by the long-winded stamina of the two actors who had just worked through over two hours of complex and emotionally-layered dialogue. Coupled with an intimate setting where the crowd almost spills onto the stage, it must take an immense amount of strength and focus to remain on-task and deliver a terrific performance. I tip my fitted hat to the actors.
The show kept me entertained and engaged as the brothers recounted stories from their childhood, discussed their individual challenges and tackled decisions that would affect their futures – just as we all do in real life. And as they displayed on stage, life’s pressures can be too much to bear at times. But unlike the actors who bowed at the end of the play, our decisions are real and have the ability to permanently impact those around us. Clearly, this is something we all should know, but a periodic “food for thought” reminder is always appreciated.
Congratulations to the Songs of KARIBU Performing Arts Company on their inaugural production! I’m proud to have witnessed the start of what will be an excellent artistic endeavor.
To those in Atlanta, I strongly encourage you to see the encore performance of Topdog/Underdog this Friday, May 2nd. #SupportArt