I saw Lynn Nottage's new play this afternoon--ironically, two years to the day after I first saw her Pulitzer-Prize winning Ruined. In those two years, rarely a day has passed when I haven't considered the power of that play. Nottage is a writer of rare talent and clarity; her language is often simple and restrained, and the audience member is keenly aware that each word she puts in her character's mouth has been carefully considered. By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is easily the best American play I've seen in over a year, and Jo Bonney's fast-paced, attractive production is its perfect compliment. It also benefits from an unforgettable, beautifully realized performance from Sanaa Lathan in the title role; were this production in a Broadway house, the Tony would be hers in a walk. (This fine actress only appears in New York about once a decade; Ms. Lathan, please make your appearances more regular!) The entire cast is wonderful, but special mention goes to Kimberly Hebert Gregory, at once hilarious (a sample line: "He won't send you out unless you give him a blow job and twenty-five dollars...and I'm not about to give him twenty-five dollars!") and keenly aware that 1930s Hollywood only sees her as a representative of the mammy archetype.
($34 youth tickets; E104. Seen at the matinee on 6/4/11)