Have you ever imagined what it really feels like to be a person of color in this country and how it feels like when you connect with another person with a different color of skin in a physical and sexual way? This one thought has become clear to me after seeing the provocative and stunning new play, Slave Play, now playing at the Golden Theatre for a limited and now-just-extended run until January 19th.
The play takes place in the MacGregor Plantation and involves three interracial couples. The first couple is black slave-worker Kaneisha (Joaquina Kalukango) and her master, white-bred Jim (Paul Alexander Nolan). The next couple is southern belle Alana (Annie McNamara) and her black fiddle-playing servant Phillip (Sullivan Jones). The third is plantation co-workers Gary (Ato Blankson-Wood) and Dustin (James Cusati-Moyer), both homosexuals. These couples are each involved with their own relationships.
In the show’s first half, each couple has a regular conversation which involves a fiddle playing a tune that wasn’t written in the slavery years, a cantaloupe, a black dildo sex toy and a strange song that causes Kaneisha to dance to it. These conversations soon lead into sexual encounters (trust me, it’s best to leave the kiddies at home to see this one). The second half becomes more psychological in the aftermath of these encounters with a shocking twist that will leave you gasping with shock.
This work is the brainchild of playwright Jeremy O. Harris, who makes a great Broadway debut with this play. He first developed the play when he was a student at Yale University. It premiered last year Off-Broadway to stunning acclaim and sold-out audiences at New York Theatre Workshop (the same place where the musical Rent made its start) before it transferred uptown to Broadway. With this play, Harris delivers a much-needed voice to the Great White Way with his opinions on race, sexual politics and how they both evolved from the time of slavery to the present.
Kudos must also be added to director Robert O’Hara (another Broadway debut) for helming a stunning production here and to the terrific cast. McNamara is superbly comic as the madame who’s trying to get his servant into her bed. I also loved the performances by Wood, Moyer and Nolan. But attention must be paid to Kalukango’s stunning, Tony-award worthy caliber work here, especially in the show’s final half-hour. She delivers one of the best breakout performances of this Broadway season so far.
This is truly a daring and serious play that belongs in the same league as Angels in America and A Raisin in the Sun. Long after the curtain is dropped, it’s a play that will leave you awake thinking about the status of America, then and now and how we look at one another through the color of our skin. No one in their right minds should dare to miss this.
The Buzz on Slave Play:
Quick Words: A powerful thought provoker of a play. Go see it. Seriously.
Recommend Best For: Ages 17 and up. Contains nudity, strong sexual content, adult language and violence.Playing at: The Golden Theatre (252 West 45th Street, between Broadway and 8th Ave) for a limited run until January 19th. For tickets, go online to telecharge.com or todaytix.com/x/nyc or call 212-239-6200.