‘Death of a Driver’ runs through Sunday, March 24

LINDA ARMSTRONG | 3/21/2019, midnight
Playwright Will Snider has a very compelling drama being presented at Urban Stages.
Patrick J. Ssenjovu in Urban Stages’ ‘Death of a Driver’ Ben Hider photo

Playwright Will Snider has a very compelling drama being presented at Urban Stages. His two-character play, “Death of a Driver” which runs through Sunday, March 24, is an intense piece of theater which depicts the developing relationship between Sarah, a white American engineer and Kennedy, a Black Kenyan cab driver, in Kenya. Sarah first comes to Kenya because of issues with the roads. She is excited to see how bad the roads are because she wants to be the person to come and fix them for the people, feeling that roads bring jobs and progress. She wants to be the person responsible for laying that foundation.

From the beginning, Kennedy is upfront and honest with Sarah about how things are in Kenya: that the government is run by a cruel, corrupt tribe that steals money from the people and that this is why things won’t get better. There is so much political tension that every time there is an election and the controlling tribe wins, people from Kennedy’s tribe are jailed and murdered. Sarah, meanwhile, does not want to face what is happening politically in this country because she needs the cooperation of is government in order to be able to build roads.

Kennedy’s character is a very honest, open person who wears his heart, political convictions and friendship on his sleeve; Sarah does not connect with him, the way he seems to with her. While he believes they are friends, she often will state that they are co-workers. Kennedy takes a genuine interest in Sarah personal life, and while she does share information it is not in a very giving way. She is somewhat cold towards him, though he approaches her with truth. It’s incredible to see how far Sarah’s detachment from Kennedy will go.

Kennedy is a sympathetic character: he is a Black man struggling in a country he loves, for a people he knows and loves, and has had to learn to keep his mouth shut and just smile to try to get things that he wants. He is not allowed to get upset, because if he loses his temper, he still doesn’t get the upper hand and then winds up apologizing for just telling the truth of his frustration of his powerless existence. This man is found in the wrong for defending his own family’s life from corrupt authorities.

This play will leave you stunned, not just because the story is so mesmerizing and powerful, but because it’s identifiable. Sarah Baskin and Patrick J. Ssenjovu are nothing less than brilliant in these stunning roles. The direction by Kim T. Sharp is poignant to behold. As these actors move around the stage with such precision, you know you are witnessing a work of art.

“Death of a Driver” is theater for thought! Urban Stages is located at 259 W 30th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue. For more info, visit urbanstages.org/deathofadriver/.