There was the smell of fresh paint as I made my way to the Anspach Theatre last night for Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Suzan-Lori Parks new work playing at The Joseph Papp Public Theatre.I couldn’t believe it had been thirteen years in the same building — that I saw another play of hers — that went on to win the Pulitzer. It was 2001, I was just turning twenty five, Karen’s was still on Astor Place — serving the best vegetarian chili in town, no had ever heard of a David Barton Gym, and there were still two very tall buildings standing proud in the financial district.
Much has changed.
There was a moment during the [standing] ovation I gave to the performers last night — i saw it on there faces — that things were still changing. A promise that things will continue to change. A world that sparkled and cracked with energy, pathos, and song.
I am not qualified to speak eloquently on what I witnessed last night. All I can tell you is that I was there, and had that funny feeling when you’re seeing something big going down, and you float out of yourself and think “this is big. I’m watching something big happen.”
I have given very few standing ovations in my life. Even if I really loved the show — I don’t stand. Yesterday, I stood before before the lights went down. As though when the stage went dark — royalty had left the building — I stood as a sign of respect.
Suzanne Lori Parks you are a fantastic playwright, and this was beautiful in so many ways. You took me back. Back to a time I could only imagine. Like dinosaurs. BUT NOT THAT FAR! Not far at all. I don’t think I realized that. I want to apologize, and I want to thank you. (Sorry if this makes little sense.) So many times during your play I wanted the actors to stop so I could catch up. That’s it — I could not emotionally catch up with your play. It is too much. I am too ignorant of that time period, and history. My history. I am going to fix this. I will never not know about this time again. I want to apologize for not knowing my history, and I want to thank you for making me want to learn about it.
You took from the Greeks, Guirgis, and Shakespeare. Many times did I feel as though I were watching a Shakespeare play, not only from some key phrases, but the way the actors thought on the line. Very few pauses, and the actors were finding the words they were saying as they were speaking. Newly minting the words.
All of the actors — tremendous. I don’t know any of your names, but well done. It was soap opera-y at times, but all real. It was heightened, but all real. It never got sappy. It was like the part of the roller coaster where you go up slow then come flying down, except the opposite. Sometimes I felt myself shoot up to the top, then invert to where I am about to fall out of my seat, and SLOWLY go down a long long long fall.
The Director, lights, guitarist, set. I love that long walking, and looking out. I loved the talking to the audience. I bought it. I bought it all.
The writing — the best marriage of images and emotion. Poetry, but in the best sense — in an inclusive way. In way that is accessible. You say “hello, how are you,” before you go off the deep end; which is why we follow you. (Guirgis can do it, too.) You sound like you swallowed your heart, and every time someone speaks a piece of it gets caught in the throat and needs to be coughed out. There are so many moments and I am going to run down them all as they pop up…. (MAJOR FUCKING SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE PLAY STOP READING.)
When he looks as his hands and they are his.
When he gives the Private freedom.
Every word out of Homer’s mouth. His slight corrections to Hero’s words: “I didn’t lose it…”
Music in the background.
Penny. I will write her name in the sand. Heartbreaking. And not in the sense that I can’t watch; in the slow sense of an impending car accident. One that I can’t take my eyes off. What poise. What beautiful/elegant strength.
The feather. You turned into a bird, and you know which one.
I literally wanted to stand up and cheer when you made that long walk across the stage to come home.
IT all starts with them looking out.
The hand covering there eye from the sun, or gauging distance.
The Chorus: perfect. I wanted to sit on the porch with you. I wanted you to know me. I wanted a secret treasure to trade, or bet with.
“You ever pick your own name? You should try it.”
So many questions to the audience that rewired my entire human hard drive. I have to stop. I have shit to do.
If I left you out — I think you’re brilliant. All of the acting. You all fit into the story. Refreshing these days to see everyone in the same play. Thank you all so much for an incredible night. Suzan-Lori Parks you made something that everyone needs to see.