By Walter Rutledge
Playwright Oscar Wilde said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” Playwright, activist, performer and educator Bryonn Bain’s production Lyrics From Lockdown embodies Wilde’s quote. He tells his story of injustice, racism and wrongful incarceration with an honesty, humanism and compassion that immediately connects to the audience.
On November 23, 2002 Bain was stopped on the Bruckner Expressway due to a broken taillight. The police officer ran his license, and Bain was falsely arrested for multiple outstanding warrants. This began three days of futility and frustration, of mistaken identity compounded by inefficient/inept legal representation. Unfortunately this is a reoccurring nightmare for persons of color (especially men) living in American; the country that declares in its creed that all of its citizenry, “Are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
Bain’s ordeal became the source for Lyrics From Lockdown. The production is more than a one man or a solo artist performance; the presentation is a multi media collaborative combining live music (Varuni Tiruchelvam, cello; Nick Moyer, trumpet, piano, accordion), audio and sound effects (Chesney Snow), video DJ (Emre Emirgil), and animation (Jazzmen Lee-Johnson). From the opening music number Bain and his collaborators welcome us into his world.
We are introduced to Bryonn Bain, a Brooklyn born college professor and performing artist, who was reared in a hard working dual parent household of Trinidadian immigrants. He grew up believing education was paramount to obtaining the American dream. Bain graduated from New York University, Columbia Graduate School and then Harvard Law School, only to becoming a victim of DWB (Driving While Black).
With total command of the stage and audience Bain weaves his compelling narrative through forty characters including family members, court officers, friends and inmates. Director Mei Ann Teo keeps this 75-minute one act drama fast paced and focused. The powerful visual and audio elements enhance the production, while remaining supportive. The scenes depicting falsely convicted Texas inmate Nanon Williams reveal great pathos, while paralleling Bain’s own situation.
The production builds a feeling of suspense without slipping into melodrama. We found ourselves immersed with anticipation, wondering what is going happen next? And for those of us who have been detained either by WWB (walking while black) or DWB (driving while black) you can totally sympathize with Bain’s plight.
Lyric From Lockdown has three performances left Saturday, February 23 at 2pm and 8pm; and Sunday, February 24, 4pm at the National Black Theatre located at 2033 National Black Theatre Way (Fifth Avenue at 125th Street) . Tickets are $35 with discounts available for senior, students and groups. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.smarttix.com, by calling (212) 868- 4444, or at the National Black Theatre box office.
Video and editing by Walter Rutledge
- The Best Shows in London (united-kingdom.worldwide-accom.com)