Urban Stages is presenting Will Snider’s Death of a Driver, a play that makes you question the rights and wrongs of relationships. A Driving Miss Daisy for today.
We first meet Sarah (Sarah Baskin), an American engineer and Kennedy (Patrick J. Ssenjovu), her Kenyan taxi driver. Sarah improves roads and has come to Kenya to prove herself in the industry. The problem is that the Government is corrupt, Kennedy is Luo and they are the underdog’s constantly losing the political Presidency.
We follow the growing friendship and the demise of what may have never truly have been. From drinking beers and conversing to the jail cells Kennedy finds himself in, we follow these unlikely friends for 18 years starting in 2002.
Sarah at 26-year-old, has received an award-winning project to build a first-class highway over a country filled with pot holes and undesirable roads.
Kennedy at 21-year-old, seems low key, but under the KANU party’s administration the economic poverty is slowly taking its toll. When he shows his communication skills, Sarah hires him to lead her team. The two bond when Sarah states “f**k the Government.”
When Kennedy puts up flyers looking for other workers, he is thrown into jail and Sarah is filled with guilt. As the years pass, Kennedy’s marriage, children, mistress (called the “spare tire” in Africa), failed romances and their sex lives are discussed over countless beers.
Sarah insist that her business not become implicated in politics, but Kennedy’s hate for the Kikuyu and the political uprising lands him in jail more than once.
In the end their friendship is tested to the limit and you wonder can two unlikely people ever really become friends. Friendships most often are based on common ground and in the end the fragility of race, oppression and birth place prove to be too much.
Both Sarah Baskin and Patrick Ssenjovu make you feel for these two unlikely comrades. We hurt when their circumstances shatter, what seemed on the surface to be something so organic.
Kim T. Sharp direction gives us the passing of time by circulating around the perimeter. The set by Frank J. Oliva is sparse allowing us to use our imagination, which is enhanced by John Salutz’s lighting design.
Snider’s script makes us think, question and delve into what friendship is and what communication actually means. Sometimes are lives are just useless chatter and the person we call friend the sounding board to pass time.
Death of a Driver, Urban Stages, 259 W. 30th St., until March 24th. Only 3 performances left to catch this compelling drama.