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In the Southern Breeze

  • Theater, Drama
  • 3 out of 5 stars
In the Southern Breeze
Photograph: Courtesy David RauchIn the Southern Breeze

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Regina Robbins

In the Southern Breeze takes its title from “Strange Fruit,” the anti-lynching protest song made famous by Billie Holiday, and the specter of racist bloodshed haunts Mansa Ra’s new drama. Alone in his apartment, isolated by the coronavirus pandemic and his own anxiety, an unnamed Black man (Allan K. Washington) ponders whether such brutality is inescapable and whether, if so, he just should cut to the chase: “It is bad that sometimes I just want to rush the process?” he asks, imagining slipping his own neck into the noose. As he wrestles with his choice, mysterious figures from the distant and not-so-distant past appear: Black men running from danger or toward liberation, from shackles both literal and figurative. Despite their common goals, they engage one another warily, their well-founded fears as likely to drive a wedge between them as to bind them together.

It’s a tantalizing setup, but director Christopher D. Betts hasn’t found a coherent tone for the piece; moments that reach for absurdism sometimes land as uneasy comedy, and the play’s resolution feels unearned. That’s a shame, because Ra’s writing is, at its best, thoughtful and poetic. Clocking in at just over an hour, In the Southern Breeze is only slightly longer than a group-therapy session, and in many ways it functions like one, with its characters modeling connection and catharsis. One suspects that a well-meaning desire to bring of-the-moment plays to the stage as quickly as possible may have led this one’s creative team to somewhat rush the process.

In the Southern Breeze. Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Off Broadway). By Mansa Ra. Directed by Christopher D. Betts. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 5mins. No intermission. 

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Written by
Regina Robbins


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