'Seed' at NBT is soul stirring
LINDA ARMSTRONG Special to the AmNews | 10/12/2011, 4:26 p.m.
Radha Blank is brilliant!
"Seed," at the National Black Theatre, located on Fifth Avenue between 125th and 126th streets, contains stirring, hard-hitting, dramatic stories taken from real life that are unforgettable and will inspire its viewers to discuss many things.
Blank is so down-to-earth in the five characters she creates that you can't help but recognize people you know-Anne, a social worker who has experienced too much human tragedy through her job; Latonya, a young single mother who works as a cashier at Duane Reade in Harlem and has a nasty attitude; Che-Che, Latonya's 12-year-old son who tries to fit in with neighborhood boys who live in his project building; Twan, Che-Che's father and Latonya's ex-boyfriend who sees his son on the weekends; and Rashawn, a female prison inmate who is one of Anne's clients she was definitely not able to save.
The poignant, engaging, mesmerizing, hip-hop- and rap-infused drama will have you looking at your neighbors and your neighbor's kids with more understanding, and keeping an open mind when you see negative behavior; you never know from where a person's problems may stem.
The play is set in Harlem and you get a feel for the cultural strength and pride associated with the people of Harlem even before the show starts, as a large screen shows pictures of Harlem landmarks like the Lenox Lounge and the statues of Harriet Tubman and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
When the play starts, the audience is introduced to Anne (played by Bridgit Antoinette Evans), a social worker who has seen too much human suffering. She has had to separate too many children from their parents. She considers herself a social work guru, but is actually a very insecure person. She helps families while still carrying around her own very personal baggage.
"Seed" is a play that speaks to the arduous tasks that social workers are charged with. Blank's sympathy for social workers is blatantly obvious, a sympathy she developed working in the New York City public school system as a teacher for over 15 years. She saw many children with problems she couldn't help; she could only report what she saw and then it was taken out of her hands.
The character of Latonya (played by Jocelyn Bioh) is a spitfire. She is angry all of the time and doesn't trust anyone. She is also uncomfortable with her son Che-Che's advanced intelligence and fights against it, since she doesn't have a GED.
Che-Che (portrayed by Khadim Diop) is a young, brilliant boy who is stymied by his mother and forced to try to find acceptance from the neighborhood thugs. Twan (played by Jaime Lincoln Smith) is a father who cares deeply for his son and appreciates his son's intellectual gifts, but has no say in his education. He is hard working and has matured a great deal since leaving Latonya.
Rashawn (played by Pernell Walker) is a young woman whom Anne removed from her home as a child because her mother was a drug addict. Rashawn got caught up in the system, going into foster care and suffering many abuses. She has had a troubled life that ultimately led to jail for murder.
Now, that I've given you a glimpse into what these characters are about, you need to make the next move and get your ticket to see "Seed." The story will touch your heart. Blank, of course, deserves much of the credit for the theatrical gem that you experience, but so do the fantastic cast of actors and the incredible director, Niegel Smith.
"Seed" is produced by the Classical Theatre of Harlem and the Hip-Hop Theater Festival and will run through Oct. 9. I hope this article plants a seed in your mind to experience this amazing, moving slice of theatre. But be warned, "Seed" is a play for teenagers and adults. It has a lot of harsh language and adult situations.
The play attracted some celebrities on opening night, including Katori Hall and Kenny Leon, playwright and director of "The Mountaintop" on Broadway; Tony-award winning choreographer George Faison; actors Frankie Faison and Larry Pine; spoken word artist Lemon Andersen; "B-Boy" Ken Swift; Sade Lythcoff, the CEO of the National Black Theatre; and Nabii Faison, the National Black Theatre's managing director.
For more information, visit www.seedtheplay.com