Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Liberty City (New York Theater Workshop)

BOTTOM LINE: Seriously. Go see this play. Now.

Liberty City, playing a far too limited engagement - no matter how long it runs - at New York Theater Workshop is, quite simply, amazing. It is a solo show (one awesome woman, April Yvette Thompson who co-wrote the show with director Jessica Blank) about her experiences growing up in the 70's and 80's in Liberty City, a section of Miami, Florida. I will dispense with any further plot information as I think the best way to experience this show is to walk in a blank slate and just absorb the brilliance as it comes raging at you.

Thompson commands the stage for ninety intermissionless minutes, and masterfully guides you on the odyssey of her life, passing the baton of narrator among an array of family members and friends, all of whom helped write and shape her story. Thompson inhabits each of these characters with a richness and a fullness that is spectacular in its specificity, yet loving in its reverence. Though non-linear in time and narrative voice, the play is never confusing. Though about a specific place, a specific period in history and involving a specific group of people, the play's themes of strength and struggle, of hope and dreams, of history and heritage, are completely universal. It is funny. It is heartbreaking. It is inspiring. It is, at times, uncomfortable and challenging. It is, in short, everything a night at the theatre should be, but so seldom actually is.

After the show, a group of about five of us, some strangers, some not, all from varying backgrounds and vocations, sat for hours contemplating what we had just collectively experienced. There were many facets of the play that we had interpreted differently, but our desire to discuss and debate and re-think and keep talking lasted well into the early morning hours. I can't wait to see the play again, armed with the experience of seeing it once as well as four hours of discussion about it, to see what else I can find lurking beneath the surface. My hunch is that the brilliance and complexity of this play and its luminous star are virtually bottomless.

(Liberty City is currently in previews; it opens March 4th and closes March 16th. Shows are Tuesday at 7, Wednesday-Saturday at 8, Saturday at 3 and 8, Sunday 2 and 7 at New York Theatre Workshop...79 East 4th Street. Tickets are $45 each or $20 for Sunday night performances, student tickets are $20. for more info.)


skelly14 said...

I had the privledge of seeing "Liberty City" over the weekend and I must say that it is fantastic. I didn't know anything about it going in so I had no expectations. It was so wonderful to experience a show and, the second it was over, want to see it all over again. The acting, the story, the entire experience...Simply amazing.

molly said...

I was extremely impressed with "Liberty City." Not only did I feel like I'd experienced a really intriguing story, but I also learned a lot about the history of civil rights and race relations in the late '70s...and being a white girl from the suburbs of Ohio, this was info I wasn't overtly aware of before. I found it incredibly eye-opening. Also, this show deserves praise for its attention to the audience...I find many one-person shows to be too self-indulgent for my taste and "Liberty City" does a great job of telling the story for the audience rather than for other, self-loving reasons. Highly recommended!

Anonymous said...

What was the main question of the play?

And maybe I didn't quite catch it but what was the turning point of the play and what was the conflict?