The definition of faith, is the belief in things unseen.
Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Head of Passes is a story about faith, that misses the mark on so many levels. Inspired by the Book of Job, the universe is testing Shelah (Phylicia Rashad). She is ill, her house and her family are falling down around her and in the end are smitten, yet the play fails the most when Shelah is at her lowest. A person of faith would realize, not all was taken. She has two grandkids that need her. Instead of wallowing on her failings and losses, she would step up. If this was such a great women of faith, the fact she had not one but two others to raise would have given her strength.
The first act sees Shelah (Ms. Rashad) a widow getting ready to tell he family that’s she is gravely ill and her plans, as her son Aubrey (Francois Battiste) is planning a party for her birthday, along with Shelah’s friend Mae (Arnetia Walker). Ms. Shelah is so God-fearing she doesn’t even like the word deviled used when talking about eggs. As a massive storm rages outside, thanks to her son Spencer (J. Bernard Calloway), the rain is failing in the inside of the house as well. When her white doctor (Robert Joy) shows up, Shelah is afraid he will spill the beans, instead he makes a statement about black people not liking the rain. Even her servants, a father and son team (John Earl Jelks, Kyle Beltran), are on the outs. When her drugged addicted daughter Cookie (Alana Arenas), arrives we learn this daughter born to another women due to her husband’s affair has also been his victim, as Shelah turned the other way. Shelah seeks to make it up to her, but Cookie is a lost cause that eventually takes down the whole family.
The first act is talkie and boring, all in the same breath and had I not been reviewing the play, I would have left. Act two however is more of a one-women show that picks up as Shelah has all that’s she loves ripped from her in one fatal night. She beseeches God, admits her failures, but fails to see there are two young people who desperately need her. They are forgotten, as hopefully this play will be, after I write this review.
The cast all seems in different shows and Ms Rashad’s technique lets you know she is acting up a storm. There is no subtlety, no layering, it is out there for the world to see. Only Ms. Arenas escapes this over indulgence.
McCraney’s dialogue goes round and round and round in circles. Tina Landau’s direction is over the top and if any of these people understood true faith, I would be shocked.
Only G.W. Mercier’s scenic design musters past this epic downfall.
Head of Passes: The Public Theatre, 425 Lafayette St until April 24th.