The Abesha Conspiracy | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Abesha Conspiracy


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THE ABESHA CONSPIRACY, Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre, at Victory Gardens Theater. The phenomenon is universal: pilgrims visiting the land of their ancestors for the first time--whether Ireland, Israel, China, or Czechoslovakia--are disappointed when the realities of a modern country fall short of the mythical kingdoms they imagined. The shock is often even greater for black Americans getting their first glimpse of Africa after 30 years of expatriate Afrocentrism.

Shepsu Aakhu's The Abesha Conspiracy explores this bewilderment through the story of a young Chicago man making a postnuptial visit to his Ethiopian wife's homeland. As they wait in the airport, he has a premonition of the things he'll encounter: malaria and altitude sickness, impassive house servants, dream-demons who chide him for the ugly-American stereotypes he embodies. He also confronts nagging memories of his Mississippi Delta-bred grandmother, charity drives for starving children, and radical activists preaching black power. Despite his father-in-law's enduring wisdom and his wife's impatient urging, he knows that his cultural education is just beginning.

Aakhu has crafted an intelligent, compassionate exploration of the malaise that haunts many contemporary black Americans: he fearlessly questions and occasionally mocks the facile dogma and media-generated images that only exacerbate their anomie. Director Tiffany Trent weaves into his script music, dance, and poetry as eloquent and articulate as the premises they illustrate.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): theater still.

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