A feel-good family funeral

In today’s Wall Street Journal I review two Broadway transfers, Chicken & Biscuits and Is This a Room. Here’s an excerpt.

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Douglas Lyons’s “Chicken & Biscuits,” the third of an unprecedented eight shows by Black playwrights that are set to open on Broadway this season, bills itself as “a feel-good comedy that will feed your soul.” This production, which is extremely well directed by Zhailon Levingston, originated at a theater in Queens but was forced to close after less than two weeks because of the lockdown and is now being remounted with a mostly new cast at the much larger Circle in the Square Theatre. While the play is far from perfect, it delivers on its promise, and if you’re prepared to look past its flaws, you’ll find it to be both amusing and touching….

Nearly all of what I’d read about “Chicken & Biscuits” going in said that it tells the story of Baneatta and Beverly (Cleo King and Ebony Marshall-Oliver), two bickering sisters who are thrown together for their father’s funeral, at which it emerges that he had a third, illegitimate daughter, Brianna (NaTasha Yvette Williams). This makes the play sound like a farce, which it isn’t: Not only does Brianna make her entrance comparatively late, but it’s played straight. Moreover, the real emotional center of the play is to be found not in the reunion of the sisters but in the awkward relationship between Baneatta and Kenny (Devere Rogers), her youngest child, who is not only gay but has a Jewish partner (Michael Urie) to boot….

Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre plans to run two documentary plays—both of which are based on real-life occurrences and have already had well-received off-Broadway runs—in rotating repertory through mid-January. The first to open, Tina Satter’s “Is This a Room,” is a 65-minute staging by a four-person cast led by Emily Davis of the transcript of the FBI interrogation of Reality Winner, a National Security Agency contractor who was convicted in 2018 of leaking to the media a classified intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. (Its companion piece, Lucas Hnath’s “Dana H.,” opens Sunday.) The transcript is performed verbatim, right down to the tiniest hems and haws.

I didn’t see the Vineyard Theatre’s original production, so I assume it’s possible that “Is This a Room” was more compelling in the company’s intimate 132-seat theater, but it doesn’t work at all in the 922-seat Lyceum, where there is no possibility of up-close intensity and the expressionistic special effects come across as absurdly exaggerated….

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Read the whole thing here and here.

Tags: Art, Fbi, Queens, Broadway, National Security Agency, Wall Street Journal, Ajblogs, Emily Davis, Dana, BRIANNA, Michael Urie, Lucas Hnath, Lyceum, Douglas Lyons, Tina Satter, Zhailon Levingston, Chicken Biscuits, Baneatta, Beverly Cleo King, Ebony Marshall Oliver, Brianna NaTasha Yvette Williams, Kenny Devere Rogers, Broadway 's Lyceum Theatre

Source:  http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Artsjournal/~3/UO1VvjUTvoE/a-feel-good-family-funeral.html

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