The Off-Broadway debut of what playwright Radha Blank has referred to as her ‘love letter to Harlem’, the award-winning ‘Seed’, starts its run on September 16th at the National Black Theatre on 125th Street and 5th Avenue. This new play, which opened initially at the Harlem School of the Arts in 2010, is set not far from there, in West Harlem, where we find ‘Chee-Chee’ and his mother LaTonya (pronounced ‘la-tone-ya’) living at her sickly grandmother’s in the Washington housing project. ‘Seed’ incorporates rhythmic devices borrowed from hip-hop to express its take on themes often addressed within that form, such as authenticity of self-portrayal, racial identity and the multiplex of societal influences that play a role in youth development.
Listen to an interview with SEED playwright Radha Blank and actor Kahim Diop as they discuss the play on HW Radio Podcast here.
The often rhymed dialogue in ‘Seed’ at intervals gives way to outright rap verse form, a transition that works to varied effect; at times lightening, others adding heft to the mood of a particular scene. One example of this that comes to mind is when LaTonya is at her job as a Duane Reade cashier, laconically scanning item after item while addressing a seemingly endless stream of customers with the refrain: ‘price check this is $3.49 you still want this, miss?’, delivering the lines with all of the breath control of a seasoned rapper, to the delight of the audience. By way of such vehicles, under Nigel Smith’s direction, the cast of ‘Seed’ adds life to Blank’s lyrically-charged dialogue, driving home some of its more potent elements in a way that is consistent with the play’s tone.
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Adult $30 – $48 | Senior & Student $20 | Group (10+) $20