Kiwi Black | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Kiwi Black 

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Kiwi Black, Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre, at Victory Gardens Theater. Playwright Shepsu Aakhu's latest work shows what it's like to want the world for a child without having the means to provide it. And protecting one's child from the injustices of the world is a responsibility Aakhu (who's also a parent and educator) doesn't take lightly--it's central to the friction between this work's insolvent father and world-weary teenager. Widower Joe Gratton shines shoes at the Jackson el stop while attempting to shepherd his prickly son, Lennox, through adolescence. Both comment on the disconnect between the past and the future, traveling in a dreamlike state somewhere in between, an idea underscored by bluesy musical interludes and train tracks running through the set.

Joe believes that his son must be sacrificed to be saved, and his actions suggest a parallel to the story of Abraham and Isaac. Aakhu traces the connections between his protagonists with feverish intensity while a handful of background characters--grifters, salesmen, train passengers--voice the frustrations father and son (J. David Shanks and Kevin Douglas) can't communicate. As directed by Mignon McPherson Nance, the two show an amazing sympathy that catapults Kiwi Black out of the realm of simple slice-of-life drama. Over the play's two electrifying hours, these characters abandon and rediscover each other constantly, alternately railing against and succumbing to the massive debt of blood relationship.

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