The Fire This Time Festival 2018 Review: African American Plays

Fire This Time playwrights and performers
The Fire Next Time Festival 2018 performers, playwrights, directors.

A white police officer shoots a black driver five times after pulling him over for a minor traffic violation. But things are not what they seem in “Black, White & Blue”by William Watkins, one of the six 10-minutes plays in the ninth annual Fire This Time Festival.

Watkins’ play is the most overtly political, and one of the most effective, in the evening of short plays that is the centerpiece of this year’s Fire This Time Festival, which showcases the work of early-career playwrights of African and African American descent, running through January 28, 2018.

The police officer and the driver (Kevin Necciai and Kambi Gathesha) are both actors rehearsing a scene. The director (Ashley Ortiz) keeps on interrupting them, dissatisfied with their performances, disturbed that the cop character “is coming off as the bad guy here” and “the shooting victim is coming off as, well, a victim.” “Black, White & Blue” is a clever and pointed albeit unsubtle allegory, suggesting that the police shootings of unarmed black people are greeted – and perhaps caused – by public indifference.

“The Rider” by Mona R. Washington, is also pointed and effective, in a comic vein. Julia (Lauren F. Walker) adds “a few minor changes” to the pre-nuptial agreement that her fiancé Ade (Corey Allen) wants her to sign. Ade is shocked. “What is this about my not gaining weight?”
“….You’re reading too fast,” Julia says. “You can gain weight, just not more than ten pounds. It’s no big deal.” But that’s just the first of her additions, which to Ade are indeed a big deal.

In “Anonymous,” by Sandra A. Daley-Sharif, a daughter (Erin Cherry) confronts her mother (Claire Fort), an artist who has been stealing into galleries and placing her artwork there, anonymously, because nobody has been exhibiting any of it. The paintings have gone viral, selling for more and more money, with the art world speculating it’s the work of a famous white male artist.

In “Poppy,” by Shelley Fort, a girl (Claire Fort) runs away from home, and while asleep dreams of being tried for thinking about having an abortion.

In “A House” by Charly Evon Simpson, a brother an sister (Corey Allen and Erin Cherry) stand in the cold looking ambivalently at the childhood home they’ve inherited

In “The Falling Man” by Gethsemane Herron-Coward, two daughters (Lauren Walker and Ashley Ortiz) are in denial about being related to a man who has jumped off a burning skyscraper, presumably one of the Twin Towers during September 11th. The dialogue is poetic, but it becomes clear that the women have ambivalent feelings towards a father who was always only half there. The play ends powerfully switching the viewpoint to the man (Kambi Gathesha): “I’d rather jump than burn. I’d rather die breathing….I want to be a Black man that owns his own damn bodyTell my daughter I’m sorry. I was only half of what she needs.”


Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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