Beneath A Dark Sky | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Beneath A Dark Sky

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BENEATH A DARK SKY, Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre, at Victory Gardens Theater. MPAACT continues its mission--nurturing Afrocentric theater--with this promising new drama about an African-American family in rural Texas. Shepsu Aakhu's one-act is a bittersweet memory play, Willamena's wistful assessment of her past, told in a fluid combination of flashbacks and narration. Willamena focuses on a painful relationship with her bigamist father, but the conflict goes all the way back to her grandfather. When she unravels the source of her father's wandering, she finds peace.

If this resolution feels a bit glib--in general the play sums up emotional problems too quickly with narrative explanations--the cast is solid, and the production's integrity smooths the script's flaws. The scenes in which Willamena fishes at night with her grandfather are quite lovely, much more moving than her sketchy interactions with the other characters. Director Arie Thompson keeps the pace steady, and the accompanying live music, by Slight Return, adds energy. Mark Franklin's set is spare and neat, suggesting a well-kept house maintained by hard work and stubborn love.

--Carol Burbank

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