‘shadow/land’ Review: What the Storm Washes Away

I have a mother who tells me exactly what is what, no matter the circumstances. Even as the skies crumble, they judge your shelter suit and remind you who to thank for still standing on two legs. In “Shadow/Land,” that unfiltered candor is both a reflection of affection and a lifeline for an endangered legacy.

In 2005, as Hurricane Katrina hits Central City, New Orleans, Magary (Lysan Mitchell) forgets a purse that has belonged to her family for generations at a bar, where she finds her daughter Ruth (Johnnyce Abbott). = Pratt) and I spent my time hanging out. Long enough to get caught in a storm. Ruth, like the Albatross, is ready to ditch the club named Shadow/Land. What she seeks is a “bottomless, overpowering pleasure” that she doesn’t get from tending to her bar or her husband, who has already taken refuge in the Superdome with her teenage daughter. is.

With mother and daughter unknowingly waiting for disaster, Magary urges Ruth not to sell the clubs, but it’s a shell of its heyday. In her semi-lucid daydream, 80-year-old Magary recalls her lineage, dating back to the tenuous boom years of black business. Ruth knows the story well enough to join her mother’s refrain. “Learn how to want what you already have,” McGarry says outspoken about her daughter’s hard-won legacy.

Of course, what they already have is about to drown in oily black water. and zooms in on the devastation of life that an outsider could otherwise only see from the distance of drone footage. Behind the bar is a wall of black-and-white photographs chronicling Magary and Ruth’s ancestry, with floodwaters pushing up the floor and survivors stranded on top of the bar (set design by Jason Ardizone). by West).

Dickerson-Depenza dramatizes the consequences of environmental racism and its disproportionate impact on black women, as in her play Cullud Wattah, which depicts the effects of the Flint, Michigan water crisis. Produced by Public Her Theater as an audio her play in 2021, “shadow/land” is a poetic excavation of memory, tracing the ramifications of triumph and trauma across generations. Magary also remembers when she was a little girl, when authorities blew up the tax collections that flooded impoverished black neighborhoods. Katrina’s wrath also hit black residents hardest, with its aftermath echoing long after the waters receded.

Dickerson-Depenza’s language is rich in lyrical and figurative relevance, and the text shows the annotated influences of Adrian Rich and Zora Neale Hurston. And her dialogue draws attention to the colorism, queerness, cultural imperialism, and more of New Orleans tourism. It’s possible that the play is trying to take on too much, sometimes feeling more like a thesis than a character-driven drama, but that’s partly because so much is in danger of being lost. “Shadow/Land” is the first in a planned 10-play cycle for Katrina.)

Of the expressive tools that Shadow/Land deploys, casting is the most direct and readable. Her third character (Kristin Shepherd), known as Grand Her Marshall, haunts the show’s fringes, snapping limbs in tailored, shimmering Creole ornaments and embracing the city’s innate eroticism and death to death. Insert a poem that illuminates the attraction of proximity. (Motion directed by Jill M. Valerie, costumes by Azalea Fairey)

Abbott-Pratt and Mitchell are challenged to play characters that are captured not only by society, but also by scripts that are somewhat weighted by the explanations inherent in oral history. But it embodies the strength and strength of the mother-daughter bond with alluring ease and grace. The arrogant and fragile Mitchell McGarry may not remember what he ate for breakfast, but he never forgot the importance of Ruth honoring his predecessors, the sacrifices they made, the gifts they left behind. No. Who else will share their story when the evidence is washed away?

At the Public Theater in Manhattan until May 28th. publictheater.orgPerformance time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

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