Written and performed by Baba Brinkman; Directed by Darren Lee Cole
Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 4.24.16
Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street
by Keith Paul Medelis on 3.2.16
Baba Brinkman in Rap Guide to Climate Chaos. Photo credit by Olivia Sebesky.
BOTTOM LINE: Rap Guide to Climate Chaos is an extensive, sometimes draining, survey of climate change science in a way you may have never seen before.
Baba Brinkman is a terrific performer. And an unexpected one in the world of rap. As he mentions, he was a Caucasian rapper before Eminem was on the scene. By now, he’s an average looking, balding white guy from Canada with some sick rhymes and energetic presence. To add, he’s a remarkable improviser. When a projector goes down, he’ll work it in. When an audience member offers a comment, he’ll freestyle a new piece. He handles everything with ease and confidence.
Rap Guide to Climate Chaos is part of a series of shows constructed by Brinkman. Theasy reviewed Rap Guide to Religion last year which can be found here. It does seem like this one is of particular importance to him as he was raised by some hardcore environmentalists—his mother by profession—and travels around the world to bring his rap skills to the table. Everything else has been tried in the climate change conversation, so why not rap?
In front of a giant rear projection screen, Brinkman raps about everything from the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,) energy science, free market solutions, the Pope, and cows. It’s an extensive and important list. Designs by Olivia Sebesky and Steve Channon illustrate the facts and figures in various graphs and charts that come and go with photographs of icebergs breaking, sad looking polar bears, and other assorted images. Director Darren Lee Cole varies the pacing as much as he can, alternating Brinkman between a mic stand and a lavaliere mic, occasionally descending him into the audience for more direct addresses. You may fear he’ll call on you or offer you some sort of quiz.
After a while though, you start to feel like that this all a bit relentless. The projections feel like a live-action version of An Inconvenient Truth and your saturation level for quickly-spewed facts is full. This could really be a series of well-produced YouTube clips that here makes up a sometimes exhausting evening. Brinkman’s talents and vision are important. But no one purchasing expensive tickets to an off Broadway solo show about a man rapping about climate change needs to be convinced any further about it’s reality. What is fascinating, and I would have liked more time with, is Brinkman’s own story about his back-to-the-land, Canadian, hippie upbringing. He’s also a well-traveled man, appearing at the climate conferences in Paris and using his artistry to educate. There’s more to be had here for his run in New York. Until then, I look forward to the positive momentum he can create in our world.
(Rap Guide to Climate Chaos is presented at Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, through April 24, 2016. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 5. Tickets are $39-$55. More information can be found online at sohoplayhouse.com by calling 212-691-1555.)
Rap Guide to Climate Chaos is written and performed by Baba Brinkman. It is directed by Darren Lee Cole. Projection design is by Olivia Sebesky. Associate Projection Design is by Steve Channon. Production Stage Manager and Lighting Design is by Kate August.