Entitled 'Resist!', Christopher Haydon's recent first season as artistic director of The Gate offered three spunky, experimental stories of revolution and revolutionaries. 'Aftermath', his second season, is shaping up to be a more introspective look at what happens next.
Out go the surreal philosophical dramas about Julian Assange (à la 'Resist!'s 'Tenet'), in comes the UK premiere of US writer Dominique Morisseau's conventional but well-crafted tale of a former Black Power revolutionary struggling to cope with the fallout from the dream.
Gravelly voiced and quietly charismatic, Ben Onwukwe's Kenyatta lost his wife Ashanti three times over: once through the emotional damage wrought by the disintegration of the movement; once when he was thrown in jail; and a final time when Ashanti succumbed to the crack addiction that killed her.
Now fifty-something Kenyatta has returned to New York, searching for his daughter Nina (Michelle Asante), a shrewd street operator with a towering grudge towards the father she hasn't seen since she was five.
Morisseau offers a soulful elegy for a movement, but Charlotte Westenra's production never gets on a soapbox; above all 'Sunset Baby' is a tender domestic drama about a damaged family. Onwukwe and Asante offer bruised, sensitive performances, and Chu Omambala does a nice job of alleviating the gloom as Damon, Nina's slightly absurd hustler boyfriend.
It's low key, conservative programming for The Gate, which traditionally favours more exotic voices. But it's hard to really object when it's done so nicely.