A looming storm threatens the future of African-American storytelling, and playwright and hip-hop artist Will Power is on a mission to save it. From what, exactly, the black oral tradition needs defense isn’t made immediately apparent in his 2003 theatrical slam. Power’s indictment reaches from gang violence to religious hypocrisy to the so-called white conspiracy of malt liquor without singling out one main culprit.
His argument lacks specifics, but the message is clear: It’s up to us to define the problem and take the helm. Director Sonita Surratt’s production exudes passion, largely due to its kinetic and rhythmically adept two-person cast. As “the seven last storytellers in the neighborhood” fall victim to the changing culture one by one, street rapper MC (Rashaad Hall) trains to take up the post at the hand of Ole’ Cheesy, a prophetlike veteran of the form. Hall gives a powerhouse performance and displays remarkable range in his tributes to different community archetypes; his feverish energy is in itself an inspiration. Deja K. Taylor supplies strong vocals that are marred only by eta’s overprominent and fuzzy sound system. The focus and youthful spark in these two performers should be enough to grant Power some peace of mind for his art’s future, both in the “neighborhood” and everywhere else.