Off Broadway

The New Group’s ‘one in two’ Demands Action

The New Group’s ‘one in two’ Demands Action

Welcome to the Club“. It’s an absurdist invitation that weighs heavy, as heavy as that 2016 CDC study released which projected that “one in two Black gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime“. It’s a horrifying statistic, particularly startling as the numbers are generally more optimistic in NYC for other groups, namely White gay and bisexual men. So it makes sense, in the big picture, that on hearing this grim outlook for the future, playwright Donja R. Love’s (Fireflies) started work on a new play entitled one in two. Love’s anger and the frustration with it all is only componded by the desperate place he found himself in as the 10th anniversary of him being HIV+ approached about one year ago.  The resulting shame is scarely difficult to navigate, says Love, and the reality that this play slides down upon is heartbreakingly intense, but more importantly, it’s also a rally cry for action.

46_one in two
Edward Mawere, Jamyl Dobson. Photo by Monique Carboni.

Think of the level of trauma we go through“, Love states, so dropping these three identities down in what looks like a waiting room in the dystopian future, seems somewhat apropos. Designed by Arnulfo Maldonado (LCT’s The Rolling Stone), with stark lighting by Cha See (Barrington’s America V 2.1), and solid sound design by Justin Ellington (PH’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning), the holding cell for those being moved from one universe to another is perfectly crafted, nuetralizing the experience of becoming positive into something clinical and cold. The resulting visual, with the ever increasing count-up above, courtesy of a powerful video numerical system by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Be More Chill), is to display the emotional rite of passage that ‘one in two‘ Black queer men will journey through. These three Black queer souls sit, waiting for something to begin and working out the odds that are not in favor of them. Not with an excited optimism for salvation, but with the troubled bored energy of the condemned. It’s a compelling beginning to a surprisingly intense exploration by The New Group, one that deeply resonates within, particularly because of the structure and the clear focus of playwright Love

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Jamyl Dobson, Edward Mawere. Photo by Monique Carboni.

Directed with skill and passion by Stevie Walker-Webb (Public’s Ain’t No Mo’), the three are quickly seen as interchangeable, somewhat in the same way we are asked to look into ourselves as we also take a number upon entering the theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center.  Will we be number ‘one’, or will we be one of the others? That is a question that the three contemplate.  They are assigned, but they revolt, braving the authorities that watch by asking the audience who will be the ‘one’.  Will it be Jamyl Dobson (NYTW’s The Seven), Leland Fowler (Rattlestick’s Novenas for a Lost Hospital), or Edward Mawere (Windy City’s Bootycandy) – all phenomenal in their gamed flexibility, and although they remain numbered and interchangeable, they do become real based on competitive acts and assignments. We don’t know the rules, nor what the outcomes are to mean in the grander scheme of things, but we applaud hoping it helps, when in fact, it becomes clear that it is something quite different than a popularity contest.

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Leland Fowler. Photo by Monique Carboni.

Once the roles and numbered t-cell-shirts are donned, courtesy of the wise costuming by Andy Jean (Vineyard’s Good Grief), and the safe word is agreed upon, the news and the aftermath are set in motion.  Some false starts and pauses delineate the problems to come, but it’s in the sequential scenes where the aloneness, pain, and the unfairness of it all register clearly. It’s as if the powers-that-be upstairs who control the space want the story to play out in the same tragic manner. Society seems to deem this appropriate, regardless which of the young men is assigned #1/Dante. This time though, the reins of the story are snatched away, and placed firmly and defiantly in the hands of the player(s). A new tale is attempted, one where suicidal ideation, plan making, and action is not the projected outcome. This is only if others, like what Love is attempting here with this clever and smart piece, are daring. And maybe this change in outcomes can grab hold, acting and helping to steer these souls away from that seemingly destined and heartbreaking ending.  The play gives shape and dimension to the invisible or ignored, driving with force and straightforwardness a situation that is untenable. ‘one in two‘ is a call to arms, and a call for action and involvement. The statistic shouldn’t stand, and this play deserves its airtime, forcing us to see inside a devastating ratio, and see how badly it needs to change.

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Edward Mawere, Leland Fowler, Jamyl Dobson. Photo by Monique Carboni.

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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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