Breathe is a stirring story from the moment the curtains open and you hear the blood-curdling cries of Myra birthing a son who is not her husband’s– to the soul-gripping songs of its powerful singers– this play is raw at every twist and turn.
Breathe opened at the Porter-Sandford Theater March 19th theater-goers jumped to their feet, clapped, sang, cheered and stomped for every ounce of the prolific stage performances. It was evident that the performers lifted us up, freed their souls and left their souls on the stage.
There were lots of moments that was convoluted and confusing and definitely begs for re-scripting.
The play embodied the culture rich tale of the history of African Americans and what we’ve dealt with from slavery, through the relevant struggles of the civil rights era up to the modern day diminishing of women and their womanhood as powerfully portrayed in a piece called Sistagirl where women are charged to find their crowns and uphold their virtues to be great women and not embrace the term Bitch.
Breathe gives a nod to our ancestors and those who endured suffering from being lynched, beat-down, brainwashed and endured the struggles of the 60s civil-rights era, fighting for change from the big house to the White House.
The play opens and follows a story of Myra (Played by Tunisia S. North) who was raped by her “massa” and has a baby birthed by midwives who wince and grunt and groan and produce powerful commentary about having massa’s baby. Myra’s husband Wilbur (Played by Kenneth Bowen) sits in the corner crying, and holding his knees feeling helpless and hopeless watching his wife suffer. The midwives open the act with striking commentary. The women who played them are Rita Thomas, Tawanna Thomas, Tasha Payne, Courtney Arlett and Kesha Rose.
Check out this video excerpt.
The script throws in almost every issue that plagues the black community. That’s where it gets convoluted and a little off-track. From slavery which Myra births the son of her massa’ to the story of that same son Rayford (played by DeAndre Tapia) being a typical teen hanging out at the juke joint and drinking and then later getting killed by lynching. Written by 21-year-old Cleavon Meabon IV, it is evident his youth failed to carry this play through and it needed more mature cohesiveness. This play had MOMENTS. But in my opinion, it wasn’t a masterpiece.
The story discusses lynchings, freedom riders, feminism, hair weaves, black women body imagines and it does so while tying in impeccable vocal performances. If the director had not found these wonderful actors then this play would certainly be lacking.
And for me the most meaningful part of it all was seeing my daughter Mikaela Sydney Smith play the daughter of the Jones family, Rona. She left such an indelible impression on the audience when she got up and shut her little brother “Bud” down! It was an unforgettable moment that defined Mikaela as a rising star. And according to Cleavon, many people have been asking about Mikaela and Jonah Nash who played Bud, Rona’s brother. These two kids commanded that stage and were memorable. I’m SO proud of Mikaela!
There were many more notable performances and singers and dancers. My tops picks are: Ty Glascoe who had a standout dance performance in a civil rights bus scene.
I hate to miss anybody but really I’d have to name the whole cast because EVERYBODY did a phenomenal job. I loved all the choreography, the juke joint scene, bus scene, various dance sequences and especially the incomparable Chelsea Stevens, who was a standout as the woman in the red dress who danced to When I Rise during the church scene.
And Kesha Rose as Devorah and her commentary about losing her son Peabo will have tears pouring!
Thank you to AP Photography www.aptheater.com for the wonderful pictures.