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Off Broadway

TFANA’s Fairview Forces Forward Surprise and Discomfort Fantastically

TFANA’s Fairview Forces Forward Surprise and Discomfort Fantastically

Don’t be fooled into easy submission. That’s my first warning when attending this utterly fascinating and forceful play. Like a good food fight, it wildly throws out implied conventions and disturbing vantage points, easing the audience into calm capitulation by serving up stereotypical behavior to a stereotypically accepting audience and then twisting the tale on its dancing and singing head. Inside Fairview, Jackie Sibblies Drury’s complicated and multi-layered Pulitzer prize-winning play, the tide turns, very uncomfortably, becoming something quite different than we first comfortably imagine. It transitions dramatically into a heady examination of race, strongly held expectations, and white privilege. Layered on top is an upsettingly accurate internal dialogue of observers tracking inside something that resembles an insulting talk radio show laced with disturbing racial blindness and obliviousness. The shock of the depth of insulting misinformation is rough to hear, and blazingly authentic. The four find their way onstage, pushing forth a diatribe to poke hard at the reversing of color blind casting and stereotypes that sit inside.

TFANA Fairview Henry Grossman 2
MaYaa Boateng. Photo by Henry Grossman. 

The construction is radical and wise, etched with humor and clarity of vision. With a strong cast of actors pseudo-sublimating us into passivity on a strongly accented set designed with a reversing sense of purpose by Mimi Lien (RTC’s True West), spot-on lighting by Amith Chandrashaker (Signature’s Boesman and Lena), strong sound by Mikaal Sulaiman (Atlantic’s Blue Ridge), costuming by Montana Levi Blanco (New Group’s Daddy) and eccentrically thoughtful properties supervision by Ryan Courtney (Soho Rep’s Passage), Fairview shocks and excels in ways you reluctantly want to participate in. Pulled out of our comfort zone seat by the determined MaYaa Boateng (Signature’s Fabulation,…) as young ‘eyes wide open’ Keisha, with compelling support by the others in the phenomenal cast: Charles Browning (Virginia Stage’s I Sing the Rising Sea), Hannah Cabell (Broadway’s The Father), Natalia Payne (RTC’s The Last Match), Jed Resnick (Broadway’s Avenue Q), Luke Robertson (Atlantic’s Good Television), Roslyn Ruff (Broadway’s All the Way), and Heather Alicia Simms (Public’s Barbecue); Fairview smashes triumphantly at her command. As directed with resolution and unabashed confidence in the collective by Sarah Benson (Soho Rep’s An Octoroon), with choreography by Raja Feather Kelly (Atlantic’s Fireflies), the piece pounds us forward dramatically, challenging us to overcome. I won’t ruin the experience by saying any more, as the weight is felt more covertly by the unknowing ones, and the power by the open hearts.

TFANA Fairview Henry Grossman 4
MaYaa Boateng and Roslyn Ruff. Photo by Henry Grossman.

To enter innocently into the birthday dance of critical thinking, is the way to racial enlightenment. It’s clever in its cake-walked rotations asking us to look into the something that is keeping us from being who we really need to be, or at least how we need to alter our perceptions. It’s “a family affair”, this Fairview, but one that is bigger and has its eyes on a horizon that is as blurry and distressing as a deer ‘caught in the spot lights’ of theatre creationism. This “history lesson of a person”, regardless of race, is extremely successful in its doctrine, relentlessly forcing the audience to look out at themselves through inner dialogue and outer experiential re-positioning with the hope of a new, although uncomfortable perspective of a future unlike the thing we first expected.

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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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