Sunday, September 21, 2008
Slavery is wrong, period, a simple truth that will surprise no-one in the educated crowd at PS122. What will surprise them--especially given the emphatic and broad strokes of Thomas Bradshaw's writing--is how strongly the acknowledgment of such a vast moral wrong can still impact them. Stereotypically evil slaveholders take care of the graphic rapes and abuses even as their satirically hypocritical lines give way to the darkest comedy, but what's important to focus on is the depth of the victims, married house slaves Benjamin (Erwin E. A. Thomas) and Charlotte (Sadrina Johnson), who we suffer vicariously through. Along with director Jose Zayas, these actors capture a subtle explicitness that make the deep sorrow reflected in their eyes more graphic than their own physical degradation. Save for one misstep in which Benjamin dreams of being the master (which tarnishes his suffering), Southern Promises is a fine work of evocative theater. That it is not harder to watch says something more about the audience than it does about the highly capable cast and crew, who have created a lingering mood that sends aftershocks long after the curtain call.