Legacy Street, a new play by Lauren Jane Redmond, an MFA Playwriting candidate at The Catholic University of America, premiered last night at the Callan Theatre.
A gritty look at violence in the inner-city drug culture and some of the effects that culture has on the young women trapped within it, Legacy Street provides a rare opportunity to experience those effects close up and personal.
Directed by Mark Routhier, with a design team of Lewis Folden (Scenic Design), Gail Beach (Costume Design), and Alberto Segarra (Lighting Design), the scenography adds some much needed context to the script. Folden’s urban visuals are particularly effective as they transport us into the heart of an economically depressed world.
At the heart of the script is a young woman named Priss (played with resolve by Desiree Chappelle). The sister of a drug kingpin, and the wife of his right-hand man, Jayse (played fiercely by Dylan Fleming), Priss survives the daily assault on her sensibilities by emotionally shutting herself off from her family. When she attempts to support herself with a legal, but low-level job as a barista, the former drug-lord of the community and her father, D (played with a lot of street cred by Gregory Ford), chastises her for turning her back on her family.
Meanwhile, two other actresses play important roles in this story about women who are trapped in violent life-situations. Angela (played grittily by Amanda Hopkins) is a police detective who has been on the drug gang’s payroll for years. When her sister’s daughter, Iris (played sincerely by Kira Burri), comes to live with her after the death of her mother, Angela’s “I don’t give a damn” attitude toward life is turned upside down.
Finally, we have Tyler (played with good comic timing by Chris Gleason), a homeless young man and petty thief and drug runner. Besides providing comic relief, occasionally at the most inopportune times, Tyler’s character thematically roots the script in the idea of “legacy”. His desire to donate $50 to the new library’s building fund, which will get his name on the brick, could not be more sincere and absurd at the same time.
An ominous sound design by Frank DiSalvo and effective fight choreography by Casey Kaleba add to the production’s authenticity.
Ms. Redmond’s script explores a necessary socio-psychological terrain, one often ignored by contemporary playwrights. Unfortunately, its structure relies a bit too heavily on TV dramas, which develop their stories with a good deal of quick cuts and multiple locales, and without much exposition.
More importantly, Redmond’s females make some significant decisions, with enormous emotional and ethical import. I, for one, would have greatly enjoyed a more indepth exploration of those choices. For unlike TV and movies, which are primarily visceral media, theatre and its intimate human confines provide a forum for understanding.
Of course, that does not mean the visceral has no place in the theatre–yes, murders can still be committed on stage–but that each choice a character makes is a chance for the playwright to say, “Look, listen, and learn!”
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with a ten-minute intermission.
Legacy Street plays through February 21, 2016 at The Catholic University of America’s Callan Theatre – 3801 Harewood Road NE, in Washington DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 319-4000, or purchase them online.