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Off-Broadway Review: WP Theater/Second Stage Theater’s “Our Dear Dead Drug Lord” at the McGinn/Cazale Theater (Through Sunday January 5, 2020)

Off-Broadway Review: WP Theater/Second Stage Theater’s “Our Dear Dead Drug Lord” at the McGinn/Cazale Theater (Through Sunday January 5, 2020)
By Alexis Scheer
Directed by Whitney White
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“But women only need themselves to plant seeds in hearts and minds that stab and twist when they begin to root, ensnaring us all with just a thought.” – Pablo F***ing Escobar in “My Dear Dead Drug Lord”

Alexis Sheer’s “Our Dear Dead Drug Lord,” in its final days at the McGinn/Cazale Theater, is deeply disturbing and profoundly important. Co-produced by WP Theater and Second Stage Theater, the play explores the shadowy underbelly of the teenage angst of four private secondary school young women with extraordinary perception and frightening accuracy. The socio-economic constructs of 2008 Miami have not served these adolescent young women well; in fact, the “establishment” has completely failed them and forced them to look for answers to the vicissitudes of life in other, less traditional communities.

Pipe (Carmen Berkeley), her next door neighbor Zoom (Alyssa May Gold), Pipe’s best friend Squeeze (Malika Samuel), and “the new girl in town” Kit (Rebecca Jimenez) meet on the first Tuesday of the month in an abandoned tree house for the regular meetings of their school-sponsored “Dead Leaders Club” the purpose of which is to study “a controversial figure in history.” After “studying” Adolf Hitler and wearing Nazi armbands to school, they were labeled a “hate group.” So, Pipe decides the next dead leader would be Pablo Escobar.

This foursome lives on society’s edge and are, as such, more than a bit edgy themselves. At their September 2008 meeting, Kit reminds Pipe, “you guys were suspended cause you spent club money on drugs and you chose a criminal to worship?” The group’s worship style is as edgy as its membership. It includes animal sacrifice, stylized rituals using a Ouija Board, candles, totems, alcohol, weed, cocaine, incantations, and a horrific destruction of Zoom’s womb with a hanger. Despite its intensity, the adoration of Escobar is not focused, and Pipe and friends find themselves asking for things they really don’t want – these are things they are supposed to want when successfully conjuring a dead leader.

Eventually, the rituals are successful, and Escobar appears (along with Pipe’s deceased Little Sister (Winter Donnelly) and all hell breaks loose and Pipe’s Third Eye is opened. It is best not to disclose the awakening sequence: to do so would significantly impair its visual significance and impact. It is enough to know that at the conclusion of the “visit,” Pipe and other young women are finally able to make the affirmation that will change their lives: “i will not be good./i will be loud loud loud./have things and not be had./make the world in my image./and take. what’s. mine.”

With Whitney White at the helm, the action of the play moves carefully forward to its cathartic resolution. The actors dissect their characters with precision, slowly revealing their honest motivations and true desires. Yu-Hsuan Chen’s tree house, lighting design by Lucrecia Briceno, and sound design by Fan Zhang deftly set the variety of moods necessary throughout the play.

“Our Dear Dead Drug Lord” is a stunning and unsettling piece of theatre that will stay with audience members long after the curtain call. The memory will either result in dramatic shifts in understanding or even more dramatic descent into entrenchment of thought. One wishes Pablo Escobar’s (Matthew Salvidar) dialogue could be in English (understanding he most likely did not ever speak in English) so his important and transformative message to Pipe might be heard by the audience and not read after the performance in a translation handout. Nonetheless, this is play worth seeing once, perhaps twice to ensure a future free of patriarchy and other spirit-crushing constructs. As Pablo warns, “But women only need themselves to plant seeds in hearts and minds that stab and twist when they begin to root, ensnaring us all with just a thought.”

OUR DEAR DEAD DRUG LORD

The cast of “Our Dear Dead Drug Lord” features Carmen Berkeley, Alyssa May Gold, Rebecca Jimenez, and Malika Samuel.

The creative team for “Our Dear Dead Drug Lord” includes scenic design by Yu-Hsuan Chen, costume design by Andrew Jean, lighting design by Lucrecia Briceno, sound design by Fan Zhang, intimacy and fight direction by Judi Lewis Ockler and casting by Kelly Gillespie, CSA.

WP Theater/Second Stage Theater’s “Our Dear Dead Drug Lord” runs at the McGinn/Cazale Theater (2162 Broadway) through Sunday January 5, 2020 on the following performance schedule: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.ourdeardeaddruglord.com or by calling OvationTix at 212-352-3101 or 866-811-4111. Running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Photo: Alyssa May Gold, Rebecca Jimenez, Carmen Berkeley and Malika Samuel. Credit: Shira Friedman.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Sunday, December 22, 2019