Written and Directed by Temar Underwood
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.29.15
VENUE #12: 64E4 UNDERGROUND, 64 East 4th Street
by Emily Breeze on 8.27.15
Kwame Opoku-Duku and Brett Davenport in A Spot on the Wall. Photo by John Henri Coene
BOTTOM LINE: A close look at the darkest evils in our world, underlined by racial tensions and the industrial prison system.
Aidan and Ezra (Brett Davenport and Kwame Opoku-Duku), two maximum-security offenders, have been moved to a medium-security facility and forced to share a cell for the few weeks before Aidan’s lethal injection. The two men struggle to find redemption and forgiveness in each other while haunted by their pasts. All characters are reanimated by either Aidan or Ezra, through what Aidan describes as “immersion.” The show asks the audience to become immersed in the minds of the prisoners and confront the crimes we would rather lock away for life.
Opoku-Duku and Davenport clearly have a connection and a trust in each other as performers that allows some of the more violent and emotionally-wrought moments in the play to flow easily. However, neither actor is quite able to overcome the often clunky dialogue, which relies too heavily on metaphors and symbolism. Aidan’s dialogue in particular is mired in every stereotype of a sociopathic serial killer. Davenport does an admirable job of connecting with his scene partner, but unfortunately, not with his character.
The highlight of the show is Ezra’s impassioned explanation of the inescapability of blackness within an oppressive white society. Opoku-Duku handles the passage deftly, with honesty and clarity. The bitterness Ezra feels is sharp and personal, and though his view of oppression is broad, his anger never feels undefined or vague.
As the note in the program points out, the United States has an incredibly high incarceration rate. This play drags us into the cell with two murderers, and exposes their humanity along with their crimes. A Spot on the Wall won’t let you look away.
(A Spot on the Wall plays at VENUE #12: 64E4 UNDERGROUND, 64 East 4th Street, through August 29, 2015. Performances are Fri 8/21 at 9; Sun 8/23 at 2; Mon 8/24 at 7; Thu 8/27 at 4:30; and Sat 8/29 at noon. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit temarunderwood.wix.com/aspotonthewall.)