Playwright Dominique Morisseau has penned a powerful script and it is delivered with added power and style by guest director Steve H. Broadnax III. In-the-round staging energizes MSU's basement Arena stage into an arena of conflict, communication and struggle. Pace and energy were enhanced by occasional rhythmic, percussive dance/rap segments and dramatic lighting (Peter Verhaeghe) and sound (Chelle Peterson).
The talented cast does double duty, portraying distinctive individual characters, as well as donning black hoodies to be "the crowd" when appropriate. Kristy Allen, Gary Patterson, Karen Vance, Jacob Covert, Greg Hunter, Jen English were all very good. I particularly enjoyed Greg's and Kristy's complex characters, Justin the school-paper editor and Raylynn the black girl daring to run for student council president.
Check the program for the director's conversation with the playwright. It points out various connections, with "blood at the root" being a line in the classic Billie Holiday song, Strange Fruit. Surely the roots of racism run deep and change only with struggle and time. The play ends with hope that this all "boils into something better" — as I remember the line.
In light of recent events, Mark and I were imagining a Muslim student wearing a hijab in the mix onstage. Similar humanity, chaos and passion characterizes all these conflicts. Let's hope MLK was right and that arc of the moral universe keeps bending— or boiling— toward justice.
Blood at the Root continues at the Arena stage in the basement of the MSU Auditorium Building.
**Sunday, February 5, 2017 at 2:00pm
Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 7:30pm
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 7:30pm
Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 7:30pm
Friday, February 10, 2017 at 8:00pm
Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 8:00pm
Sunday, February 12, 2017 at 2:00pm
* Post-Show Discussion on Friday, February 3, 2017 (Following the Performance)
** Designer Pre-Show Discussion Sunday, February 5, 2017 at 1:15pm
General Admission $15. Seniors and Faculty $13. Students $10.
Tickets are available from the Wharton Center Box Office; 1.800.WHARTON; www.whartoncenter.com
The ticket office at the Arena Theatre opens one hour prior to the show with doors opening 30 minutes prior to the show