Last night symbolized the official reopening of Broadway as the iconic Winter Garden Theatre housed the 74th Annual Tony Awards.
What is in a name? What does one’s name symbolize? What does one’s name mean in the context of society and our history? As Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s new play Pass Over so brilliantly and clearly points out, it’s a lot more than just how we address each other.
“Broadway is back.”
Taking the phrase wine and dine to the next level
After the year and a half+ we all had, we could use a little bit of merriment in our lives. So, without further (much) ado (about nothing) – here are your top 5 reasons to run to see the current production of Merry Wives – this summer’s featured Free Shakespeare in The Park show presented by The Public Theatre.
1.) The diverse and unique perspectives brought to a classic work. Upon being seated, audiences are fully welcomed into the production via a drummer on stage who invites audience members to participate in a series of call and response greetings that are native to various African nations, including Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, among several others. This warm welcome brings us into the world of modern day South Harlem and sets up the stage perfectly for this witty and fun production of Merry Wives, which is a spin on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor adapted by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Associate Art Director/Resident Director Saheem Ali. The choices made regarding this production make it clear that this is more than just your average Shakespeare in the park show – this summer’s production is here to honor Black joy, queerness, differences, similarities, heritages of all sorts, and the city itself.
2.) Physical comedy. Mark my words, there is no greater joy than seeing excellent physical comedy in a Shakespeare production. A good physical performance can take the antiquated words from the page and transport them centuries into the future. Overall, the performances were very strong – it was clear that the cast trusted each other and celebrated heritage, the Bard, and each other on that stage. I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out Jacob Ming-Trent, who portrays Falstaff in one of the most innovative and dynamic ways I’ve ever seen – perfectly adapted for a modern audience, but remaining true to iconic joker himself. Comedy gold was shining thru when Madam Nkechi Ford (Emmy nominee, Susan Kelechi Watson) and Madame Ekua Page (Tony nominee, Pascale Armand) play Falstaff’s game and meet him with shenanigans of their own in their element, heightening the confusion and making the encounter all the more enjoyable for the audience.
3.) Lights! Sets! Choreography! Costumes! Where to start. The craftsmanship of Merry Wives was all around outstanding. As mentioned earlier, from the get go, the audience is fully immersed in the world of this contemporary story. The scenic design by Beowulf Boritt and costume design by Dede Ayite focus on the small, but necessary details that make this production realistic and relatable such as Black Lives Matter signage all around the neighborhood and decorated iPhone cases that were used by characters to capture hysterical moments. At the end of the show there, we are transported into a “dream-like” sequence, which utilizes costumes and design in an extremely dynamic way that derives elements from various African cultures, making the scene impactful and emotional not only for Falstaff, but also for the entire theatre. Speaking of the “dream-like” scene, the choreography (by Darrell Grand Moultrie) and fight direction (by Rocío Mendez) were powerful vehicles for physical storytelling throughout the duration of the 110 minute show. The use of movement truly propelled the story in ways that just dialogue did not, we felt more connected to the characters and the emotional journeys they were going on.
4.) Theatre, but make it socially distanced (and vaccinated). Re-acclimating to “normal” life is a challenge in its own right. In addition to being an outdoor production (which is a staple of Shakespeare in the Park whether during a pandemic or not), The Public is requiring proof of vaccination for full capacity seating areas. Upon walking into the Delacorte Theatre, you must wear a mask until you get to your seat and those in physically distanced seating areas do not need to provide proof of negative testing, but those non-vaccinated guests must remain masked at all times. I’ve seen a few productions back at this point and this was by far among the safest I felt. A huge thank you to The Public for taking the initiative to put the safety of so many New Yorkers first.
5.) Merry Wives highlights the beauty of New York City in all its glory! Free Shakespeare in the Park has been a New York City tradition since 1954 and it’s one of the few that continues to strive to make professional theatre relevant to new generations and widely available to diverse audiences. This production is a love letter to New York and shows the world that we’re back and merry, baby!
Free Shakespeare in the Park’s production of Merry Wives as presented by The Public Theatre, is playing at the Delacorte Theatre (81 Central Park West) through September 18th, 2021. For more information, please visit: https://publictheater.org/productions/season/2021/sitp/merry-wives/
The Knockturnal experienced Chronicle X – a two-night ritual-play cycle memorializing the stories of Black women warriors at The Shed in New York City.
If you asked me 18 months ago if I wanted to spend an evening in a dark theatre downtown “experiencing” an audio-based science-fiction theatrical event, telling the tale of an epidemic that seemed (at the time) truly unbelievable, I probably would have opted out of the opportunity. Quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t have been able to connect to work. At the time, it likely seemed so far-fetched.
On Tuesday, February 2nd The Critics Choice Association hosted the 3rd Annual Celebration of Black Cinema, via a virtual ceremony, to honor 10 visionary films and 15 actors, producers, and directors of the season.
What a year. What a year for the arts x 100.
Nikki Lynette is a prolific singer/songwriter, rapper, and playwright who is about to debut her new play “Get Out Alive”. We caught up with her to discuss her play and how she uses her past as inspiration for her work.