Photo by Don Kellogg

Friday, June 24, 2011

Yes We Can

Down Payment Productions' play, Yes We Can, a new New York Play, by Daniella Shoshaun, is indeed chock full of issues.  Perhaps, dare I say, even too many.  Ten actors enthusiastically take the well lit and well crafted black box theatre stage at WalkerSpace and take us on a journey - a journey not only of the diverse people of New York City, but the ideas, hopes, dreams, frustrations, inequality, and discrimination they face on a daily basis.

Performed in short vignettes that overlap and intertwine, Yes We Can, in a few instances, cleverly takes one actor and transforms that actor, mid-dialogue, into a diametrically opposite character.  Hence, a Rabbi (Duane Cooper) instantly changes into a black evangelical priest.   A crusty, middle aged Jewish lesbian (Judith Dry) becomes a crazed black ghetto kidnapper.  The action, however, centers around a woman (Makeda Declet) who is "accused" of being black on a bus (that's her version of the story).  Her "accuser" (Ronald Washington), a self-assured black man himself, fields her rebuff and is mystified yet energized and intrigued by the response and sets out on a mission to meet her and confront her further about it.  At the same time, she sets out about the city crossing paths with her friends and others trying to make sense of it all.  I'm going to take a guess that the role of "black woman" was intentionally cast as a very black woman - so we would be smacked in the face with the contradiction and irony of the entire scenario.  

Rounding out the cast of New Yorkers is a very funny white girl nanny (Gina Marie Jamieson) taking on the issue of immigrants, low paying jobs and class warfare, an Indian mother (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) taking on heritage, culture, and class issues,  Jesus (Jeffrey Omura) taking on the issues of well, I think you can figure that one out,  a black nanny (Jehan O. Young) and her young white client (Stephen Stout) taking on class and love at the same time, and an Asian man who owns a bodega (Dax Valdes) endlessly struggling to make it against all odds.  Outside of these characters, we also cross paths with a plastic masked gang of kids, a gospel choir, a gay couple, a group of Latino nannies in the park, a local organic-Nazi farmer, and a few other random city folk young and old.   

The play's dialogue is certainly intelligent and witty, and points out through humor and irony that to those less fortunate or newer to this country or to those that have been struggling to "arrive" that just about anything is possible here if we stick to it.  Set on the eve of the election of Barak Obama as president of the United States, Yes We Can shows us anything is possible.  While I doubt we're headed toward any Pulitzer prize here, it's still nice to see a fresh, young, ambitious and idealistic work on the stage.  Congratulations,  Daniella Shoshan.  You've arrived.