The production was scored by award-winning musician Jason Moran who on piano, along with Mimi Jones on bass, and Nate Smith on drums, provided a moving aural journey to complement Coates’ words as the actors shifted from monologue to dialogue to call-and-response and back throughout the performance.
The evening came to a crescendo a little more than midway through when rapper and producer Common took center stage beside Tariq Trotter, aka Black Thought. Both were clothed in all black, Trotter accessorizing with a tan fedora and sunglasses. The duo’s emotional rap elicited cheers from the audience and a spontaneous thrust of her fist in the air from Bassett, at its fiery conclusion. Indeed, much of the evening was marked by reflexive nods of recognition, guttural “hmms” and the side-to-side shaking of heads unable to wrap themselves around some of the horrific truths being lobbed from the stage. Harlem resident Jennifer Jones remarked, “There’s something sort of schizophrenic in terms of being part of this space of beauty and talent. The pain that we’re reminded of in such a beautiful way, in this author’s words really details that hurt, that pain, that ugly history between the world and us that’s really hard to put into words.”