Princess Grace Award-winning playwright Jonathan Payne makes his New York debut with this story based on his experience as a social worker for Playwrights Realm. More…
Karma's foster brother, Terrell, has gone missing, and she's trying to find him amidst the inner city chaos that is The Oblong – but his teacher can't remember his name, his foster mom is still cashing his reimbursement checks, and his ex is glad he's gone. Where's the police, where are the reporters? Karma seems to be the only one who cares, but the more she looks, the more she realizes that in The Oblong, caring only means trouble.
"The cast, made up of a stellar crew of talented professionals, brings authenticity to the maximum, pulling us heavily into Payne’s social experiences as he writes from his witty and distraught heart and mind...Particularly relevant and well-crafted by Payne are the illusionary stereotypes that we...tend to jump to quick judgement of pointing the finger of guilt, just like Karma, but we all find the tables turn just as quickly, knocking Karma’s accusations and blame solidly to the floor." Full Review
"Doesn't break the fourth wall so much as completely dismantle it. From its very first moments, the play insists that the audience participate in the action, no matter how uncomfortable that becomes...Through Payne’s poetic language and keen psychological insight, the people of the Oblong seem multidimensional and real, even when they are pushed to their limits. They’re embodied by a stellar cast...Awoye Timpo's production is funny, heart-wrenching and profoundly disturbing." Full Review
"Payne is undaunted by accusations of Brechtian pretension: Actors directly address the audience to comment on the play, and helpful projections tell us what will occur in each scene before it takes place...While some viewers might find this style of undergraduate metatheater off-putting, the play keeps us engaged due to director Awoye Timpo's fully committed and tightly staged production." Full Review
"The two women, both portrayed by extraordinary actresses — Kara Young as Karma, Lynda Gravátt as Madam Profit — more or less compete to dominate the play by Jonathan Payne, who is making an arresting New York debut...These scenes present a picture of individual and systemic neglect and indifference, although most of these characters are at least somewhat well-meaning." Full Review
"Taking more than a few pages from Brecht's playbook, Payne names the mortician Profit and blames the Oblong's woes on the ruthlessness of capitalism. He also breaks the fourth wall with direct interactions with the audience...It isn't the kind of theater I usually like but I was fascinated by the passionate intensity with which Payne...makes his case about the not-so benign neglect of these young people...The cast, most of them playing multiple roles, transforms his thesis into vivid life." Full Review
"Director Awoye Timpo keeps the action moving at a crisp pace, and elicits performances of great truth and authenticity...Despite terrific performances throughout, and trenchant treatment of a devastating story and situation, a good portion of the play remained clinical to me—perhaps the product of its social worker-cum-playwright—and its metatheatrical devices are so frequently and bluntly employed that they tend to dull in effect." Full Review
“In both style and content Payne tries to do too much, even though his chief concern, the hole left in society when its young black men disappear, is important and powerful...Audience participation is like plutonium; it needs to be handled delicately. Ideally, it is narrowly tailored to drive home the point of the play...The metatheatrics of ‘Revolving Cycles’...do the opposite: They undermine...That’s a shame because the scenes that don’t try so hard to be clever are so good." Full Review
"Unleashes a Pandora’s box of theatrical devices, including symbolically named characters, direct audience interaction, screen projections, a live-streaming cellphone, and actors not only breaking the fourth wall but breaking character as well. Timpo molds it all into a bracing panorama of societal failures amid institutional racism. That is, until the final scene when, with the play’s momentum waning, she and Payne risk one last gambit that unfortunately swallows up all that came before it." Full Review
"'The Revolving Cycles' merely repeats points made more strongly in a several other recent dramas...Occasionally, Payne lands a jab that truly stings...But the lack of drama proves debilitating, and the director is unable to save the action from a general listlessness...At moments when 'The Revolving Cycles' should provoke, it sometimes turns dismayingly coy...In any case, the cast works hard and honorably at inhabiting the denizens of this sometimes fuzzy, ill-defined dramatic universe." Full Review
See it if Loved it. Felt like an important experience to have. One of the best of the year so far. Really raw script and performances. So engrossing.
Don't see it if You don’t like very real scenes and rough language. Some challenging stuff for sure. Or if you want a traditional story.
See it if for riveting, profound writing about the hard facts of life in racially torn communities that tell the inside story (good, bad and ugly)
Don't see it if you expect a happy ending or neatly packaged answers
See it if you like your theater relevant/topical/smart, you want a show that's a serious social commentary that has moments of humor, too
Don't see it if you want something totally light, you want something very traditional
See it if Breaking the fourth wall and demanding audience engagement, a talented team of actors gives a vivid and disturbing performance.
Don't see it if You dislike experimental theatre. You want answers to questions and solutions to problems, but maybe raising awareness will help.
See it if you enjoy relevant issues presented in a creative, audience-interactive direction.
Don't see it if you don’t like stories dealing with current issues such as racism or if you’re easily offended by violence or cursing.
See it if you want some insight into the cycles of repression and incarceration that plague African American communities
Don't see it if you don't like direct address or audience participation
See it if Sibling searches for missing inner city youth (unseen) lost to the foster care system. Good performances with plenty of 4th-wall breakage.
Don't see it if Slurs, profanity, and violence. No curtain call, the actors were surprisingly on the street afterward. Actor tells audience the play is bad.
See it if you want a Brechtian take on racism in its various political and economic forms in modern (and past and future) America.
Don't see it if you dislike theatre that FORCES you to fully engage with the performance.
See it if you are a human being in 21st century America and want to have a play resonate with you long after you have left the theatre.
Don't see it if you want to hide from issues of racism and poverty and the justice system and education system and the realities of getting by within it all
See it if you like complicated, timely and electric work that is equal parts funny and thought-provoking
Don't see it if you don't want to think, or be engaged and only want pure "entertainment"
See it if I went to see new Yale graduate James Udom and was pleasantly surprised at the thought provoking work. It entertained with some clever humor
Don't see it if The play has a strong message. If you don’t have the stomach for real life - in your face racial discussion and art, then don’t go.
See it if you enjoy a powerfully acted, very theatrical story about the isolation of people navigating the system in poverty-stricken communities.
Don't see it if you're not a fan of a shattered fourth wall.
See it if you like to think at (and after) the theater, you appreciate a small ensemble of talented actors.
Don't see it if you don't want to confront the realities of society and your role in it, you are looking for a large, flashy production.
See it if You want to see a stunning piece of work that speaks volumes about the cycle of racism in our country without ever feeling preachy.
Don't see it if You’re a Republican...you need to see it but you’ll just call it fake news anyway.
See it if you want to experience a clear-eyed engagement in dramatic form of the daily life-&-death struggles some black neighborhoods face today.
Don't see it if confronting the consequences of institutionalized racism makes you queasy, or you are expecting a neat, well-made play.
See it if You want to see talented actors tell a story of a particular African American experience. A play that cleverly subverts genre and stereotype
Don't see it if You prefer traditional play forms (they break the 4th wall frequently) or don’t want to see a show about relevant and difficult topics
See it if You want to be shaken outside your comfort zone by a truly original new play about the cyclical nature of poverty and oppression.
Don't see it if You prefer your theater staid and unchallenging.
See it if you want to be left with more questions than answers about the characters and about the systems of racial power and privilege in our society
Don't see it if you aren't interested in the nuances of the power dynamics between and within racial identities; realistic portrayals of violence bother you
See it if You want to see a powerful play that packs a punch about America's most important unsolved problem.
Don't see it if You think all lives already matter and don't want to see any evidence to the contrary. Actually you need to see this most of all.
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