Even on a cool night, the heat of the Fort Fringe Bedroom is stifling. You will forget about it within two minutes as you enter Tupac Shakur’s world, shaped and portrayed by Meshaun Labrone in his brilliant one-man show, Right to Remain...The Life and Mind of Tupac Shakur
The set: one prison cot, one trunk. That is all Labrone needs. With charisma, fine acting, and a mesmerizing script, Labrone holds the audience in his grip.
As the lights go up, images flicker on a screen and Tupac’s lyrics thrum: “They want to throw me away but I have the right to remain.” Missing from that familiar phrase, “the right to remain” is, of course, the word silent. And Tupac’s refusal to remain silent shapes Labrone’s narrative. Labrone puts it out there in the first few minutes of the show: Tupac, son of Black Panthers and venerable rapper and activist got prison time because of his “big mouth.”
The play’s opening social critique is as apt as it is eloquent: “. . . they throw you in a cage and make money off you – slave labor, 13 cents an hour. . .the justice system is big business, making money off our misery and no rehabilitation in sight. . . . Prison is like a living mausoleum, with all these breathing bodies walking around.”
Labrone unspools more poetic and incisive commentaries until we are thoroughly caught in that small room with Tupac, his hopes and his anguish. Putting on, as it were, the masks of Richard III, Shylock, Jesus, and thug, Labrone’s Tupac struggles to understand and reveal himself. And the play is about much more than Tupac. It is about the black race in America and all the people consigned to America’s ghettoes. It is about what they can hope for, what they must fight for, what they are owed. “How many more doors do I have to walk through,” Labrone asks, “to get to freedom?”
Wonderfully directed by Phillip M. Church, this play is all beauty and power. I knew little about Tupac and less about rap walking in, and the fact that I wasn’t a fan didn’t matter.
This is deep, important, and thought-provoking work is a ‘Must See.’ It will open your eyes and your heart.
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