Theater review by Raven Snook
’s Fucking A
, one of her two Scarlet Letter
–inspired plays running in tandem at the Signature, keeps audiences at a Brechtian distance. Its sister show, In the Blood
, seizes you from the get-go. Hester (a simmering Saycon Sengbloh) is an illiterate single mom with five kids from different deadbeat dads, trying to make the best of living under a bridge. Like the garbage that keeps raining down on Louisa Thompson’s appropriately oppressive set, Hester has been used and thrown away. Even those tasked with helping her—a doctor, a reverend, a welfare worker—take advantage of her and blame her for her predicament. Once Hester’s son Trouble brings home a billy club, it’s like Chekhov’s gun: Violence is the only endgame.
The play premiered at the Public Theater in 1999, but now, with homelessness at record levels in New York City and a national backslide in women’s reproductive rights, it seems perhaps even more relevant. Its urgency is heightened by director Sarah Benson’s relentless pace (the intermission has been eliminated) and the ensemble cast’s unfettered performances as Hester’s high-spirited children and assorted heinous grown-ups. Parks’s scathing indictment of how society treats impoverished women gets your pulse pumping even as it breaks your heart.
Pershing Square Signature Center (Off Broadway). By Suzan-Lori Parks. Directed by Sarah Benson. With Saycon Sengbloh. Running time: 2hrs. No intermission. Through Oct 15.
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