brownsville song (b-side for tray) by Kimber Lee, Directed by Juliette Carrillo, Seattle Repertory Theatre through April 24 (so, yeah, its already too late).
This is one we pushed back from our original date because of deadlines and other things, which is a pity, because it continues this year's exceptional run at the Rep. Were this play in other years, it would be a highpoint, but here it just continues this year's winning track.
brownsville song is a tragedy with a positive ending. Tray Thompson (Chinaza Uche) is a young man full of promise cut down in a gang shooting. And it is about both the boy and the hole he left behind, the play flips him like Schodinger's Cat, from alive to dead, from real to memory. Tray is an incredibly well-rounded, well-presented, well-acted character that caries the weight of the play. Uche carries him well as a talented young man, messing up, gifted in boxing, and struggling with a college application essay. Extremely human, made more so by playwright Lee's poetic text, which leaves nothing of the street behind but weaves its patterns throughout.
The survivors are his Grandmother Lena (Denise Burse), his sister from another mother Devine (two young actresses play this role - we got Leah DeLynn Dual for this matinee), and Devine's long-absent mom Merrell (Vanessa Kai). The three work through their own grief in different ways, and it is clear how Tray's shooting ripped through them as well and challenged them to go on. Burse is the strongest as the grandmother who refuses to take any backtalk from her grandson or the rest of the world. Merrell slides back into Tray's life a little too neatly, but Kai carries her forward with both passion and a sense of desperation.
The plot slides back and forth in time like the settings, similar to the flying props and scenery of Luna Gale. The actors spin and turn just as easily. And there comes a moment (and this is a bit of a spoiler, but show does close tonight) when Tray's message of hope for the future comes through. And he is dressed in his red boxing trunks, and a white t-shirt with stars and stripes.
And he's Captain America. Right at the moment. Everything that is right about a person, distilled down to that moment.
This was the last show, and the three rows ahead of us were pretty sparse, which is a pity. This has been one amazing season at the Rep, and it closes next with a gimme - a Sherlock Holmes play. Pity, because this one deserves a lot more attention.
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