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Feb. 14, 2013

Theatre and Dance Department debuts play that has unexpected adult themes

By: Christina Sanders

This past weekend the Theatre and Dance Department debuted their first ever performance of Award-winning American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play ‘In the Red and Brown Water’.

The play is a part of McCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays trilogy, an award-winning series. The performance was a stand alone and the department is not scheduled to perform the other two plays in the series.

Red and Brown Water‘In the Red and Brown Water’ is set in the Bayou and moves across eras in a sometimes inconsistent manner.

McCraney attempts to make the rare connection between the contemporary committed black artist and the detatched black artist.

The piece explores many adult themes and also raises the questions in the African-American community about the status of black art and artists.

The multi-layered act attempts to provide voice for a community of people and tell the personal story of individuals. Each character has an impact on another and makes for an entertaining story of a broken and dysfunctional community. McCraney draws on multiple facets of his personal experiences as not only a black man but as a gay black man in the play.

The chronology of events in the play gives a window into the modern problems in the black community, while still maintaining the traditional elements of African-American theater such as religion and strong roots entrenched in family values.

The main character Oya, a talented runner is forced with a decision to take a full-ride scholarship to college or take care of her dying mother. Choosing to take care of her mother, Oya finds herself a victim of a string of empty affairs with men around the neighborhood and never leaving the house her mother died in.

This story isn’t unfamiliar, as a lot of African-American youth who possess an array of mainstream talent and skills, wither before blossoming and end up trapped in the poverty they always knew and dreamed of leaving as a child.
Another character Legba, struggles to find his place in the community and as man.

He grows up without a father and is rejected by his mother. This leaves him continually searching for affection and acceptance. He ultimately ends up practicing homosexuality after several disturbing encounters with older women ― with one affair culminating in the birth of his son at age 16. The character also experiences the heartbreak of unrequited love from main character Oya, who sees him only as a little brother.

The play even explores the dysfunction of the African-American family and courtship model, through Oya’s affairs with men in the neighborhood particularly, Shango. Shango is continually unfaithful to Oya in spite of claims to love her.

McCraney’s work is the subtle highlighting of community structural contradictions, exposure unexpected norms and warning of what happens in a parentless household.