Reviewed Performance 3/8/2014
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I am a lover of Spoken Word, the immediacy and intensity of the poet, the sometimes rawness of their language. It is art “in your face” and as real as their stories and intention.
Alex Tha Great is a Spoken Word artist, performing her poetry across the country since 2009 and, according to her bio, more recently in a theatrical setting. Her work, Passport to Womanhood, was awarded “Best One Woman Show” at this year’s Houston Fringe Festival, and is now at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival for two weekends.
Taking individual poems and blending them into a story, Passport to Womanhood charts the journey of Kenya Isa (sp) Miracle, a young girl embarking into womanhood. She recounts memories of growing up and reflects how her life shaped her into the person she’s become. Alex uses stories, letters, prayers and pleas as Kenya’s biography, and her words are powerhouses of emotion and angst.
Putting such rawness into a theatrical format can be tricky – either the words or the acting can overlap and get lost – and in this case both happened in an unfortunate way.
My heart hurt as I began to see how uncomfortable Alex is onstage. There is next to no stage blocking in her piece, leading to her shifting unsurely around the space, backing up several times and off to one side as if she couldn’t wait to get off the stage. Her eye contact with the audience, as she speaks directly to them, is scant and only to two people on opposite sides of the front row.
Alex takes the play’s title to heart, using a “going on a trip” metaphor with packed suitcase and passport at the ready. But then she takes the suitcase behind a black curtain and makes overly long, completely unnecessary costume changes, not once but four or five times with no filler music, only the sound of her suitcase being zipped and unzipped – most awkward for the audience.
The set is a folding table and chair where only once she sits and writes a letter with feathered pen. It is obvious she is not actually writing, and becomes so uncomfortable to watch that, for many sections of her performance, I closed my eyes as I did not want to be distracted from her words, by far the best part of the production.
Passport to Womanhood is a definite work in progress with need of complete reflection as to who Alex’s audience is, and revision as how to present it. I am biting my tongue severely here, as I sat in the audience and easily envisioned how simply her work could be presented. I hope she will allow a veteran director to take her under their wing and help her showcase her words in a much better light than seen at this festival.
Towards the end of the work, Kenya tells us that “the strongest (power/asset) will always be the voice. My wish is that Alex Tha Great listens to her character and learns from her wisdom
PASSPORT TO WOMANHOOD
Alex Tha Great
Final performances on Thursday, March 13th at 7:30 pm, and Saturday, March 15th at 8:00 pm