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generations: In brief
England's uppercase-spurning debbie tucker green, whose Born Bad was a bleak success at Soho Rep in 2011, returns to the venue with a happier piece: a portrait of South African family life, with a live 12-person chorus and food from Madiba Restaurant.
generations: Theater review by Helen Shaw
In generations, debbie tucker green’s swift, brutal work about South African bereavement, the audience gathers on a red-dirt floor. The walls are corrugated metal and diffused light, a crowded kitchen that’s also, somehow, outdoors. When the chorus stands up around us, we’re caught in their vibrating noise: “Another one leaves us / Another is gone!” they shout, and the tin walls ring.
A sequence repeats five times. As stew simmers, Boyfriend (Mamoudou Athie) woos Girlfriend (Shyko Amos), and her parents and grandparents (a strong ensemble) josh and flirt. The scene resets, and someone—perhaps stricken by AIDS?—disappears. Green’s idea resonates, though her text is weak. Her structure recalls a deteriorating villanelle, but tiresome verse (“I was the cooker / You was the cookless / I was the cooker who coached the cookless…”) doesn’t bear repetition. Cleverly, director Leah C. Gardiner treats it as libretto, recitative between Bongi Duma’s overwhelming choral arrangements. As a play, generations is flawed, but as a micro-opera, it’s a devastating aria on the trajectory of loss.—Theater review by Helen Shaw
THE BOTTOM LINE Choral music uplifts debbie tucker green's searing microwork about AIDS in Africa.