BOTTOM LINE: Seriously. Go see this play. Now.
Liberty City, playing a far too limited engagement - no matter how long it runs - at New York Theater Workshop is, quite simply, amazing. It is a solo show (one awesome woman, April Yvette Thompson who co-wrote the show with director Jessica Blank) about her experiences growing up in the 70's and 80's in Liberty City, a section of Miami, Florida. I will dispense with any further plot information as I think the best way to experience this show is to walk in a blank slate and just absorb the brilliance as it comes raging at you.
Thompson commands the stage for ninety intermissionless minutes, and masterfully guides you on the odyssey of her life, passing the baton of narrator among an array of family members and friends, all of whom helped write and shape her story. Thompson inhabits each of these characters with a richness and a fullness that is spectacular in its specificity, yet loving in its reverence. Though non-linear in time and narrative voice, the play is never confusing. Though about a specific place, a specific period in history and involving a specific group of people, the play's themes of strength and struggle, of hope and dreams, of history and heritage, are completely universal. It is funny. It is heartbreaking. It is inspiring. It is, at times, uncomfortable and challenging. It is, in short, everything a night at the theatre should be, but so seldom actually is.
After the show, a group of about five of us, some strangers, some not, all from varying backgrounds and vocations, sat for hours contemplating what we had just collectively experienced. There were many facets of the play that we had interpreted differently, but our desire to discuss and debate and re-think and keep talking lasted well into the early morning hours. I can't wait to see the play again, armed with the experience of seeing it once as well as four hours of discussion about it, to see what else I can find lurking beneath the surface. My hunch is that the brilliance and complexity of this play and its luminous star are virtually bottomless.
(Liberty City is currently in previews; it opens March 4th and closes March 16th. Shows are Tuesday at 7, Wednesday-Saturday at 8, Saturday at 3 and 8, Sunday 2 and 7 at New York Theatre Workshop...79 East 4th Street. Tickets are $45 each or $20 for Sunday night performances, student tickets are $20. nytw.org for more info.)