Brooklyn | 1h 0m | Ends Mar 31

The B-Side: "Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons"

From 8 critic and 28 member reviews
Members say: Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great singing, Relevant, Absorbing

About the show

The Wooster Group presents this piece based on performer Eric Berryman’s interest in the LP, 'Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,' recorded in 1964 by folklorist Bruce Jackson. More…

The LP features work songs, blues, spirituals, preaching, and toasts performed by a group of inmates in Texas’ then-segregated agricultural prison farms. Mr. Berryman plays the album and transmits the material live, by channeling, via an in-ear receiver, the voices of the men on the record. 

1h 0m | Ends Mar 31 | St Ann's Warehouse (Brooklyn)


95
The Washington Post

“A ravishing new show...A richly resonant auditory experience. That impression is amplified by Berryman, Moore, and McGruder harmonizing with the recording in masterly fashion...The experience is history in melody, an a cappella song cycle that reveals how men sentenced to hard labor endured, forging bonds through music...This is an hour of listening for any audience anywhere that wants its spirits lifted even as its conscience is stirred.” Full Review

90
Lighting & Sound America

"A haunting hour in the theatre...Berryman's voice seems to pierce the veil of the past, making the sorrows (and everyday horrors) of another time unsettlingly immediate; when he slips into character to introduce a number or perform a spoken piece, the transformation is instantaneous and complete...The songs are strangely beautiful, even when detailing the ugliest facts of life...This exquisitely shaped serving of raw material stunningly demonstrates how pain can be transmuted into art." Full Review

90
The New York Times

"Music seldom sounds more exciting than when you’re introduced to it through the ears of a passionate fan...That’s the experience, heightened to the point of transcendence, that’s on offer in the Wooster Group’s extraordinary ‘The B-Side’...Ms. Valk and a design team have brought a rigorous elegance and clarity...This is music that feels viral not in the technological sense of current usage, but in the sense of residing in the bloodstream." Full Review

80
New York Theater

"For all the similarities in rhythm, there is much underlying variety to these songs, and, beneath the simplicity, some striking nuance...Somehow, during this 21st century karaoke, as the three men on stage reproduced the singing...their live voices eerily took on the feel of an old record, a testament both to the singers and to the sound design. And 'The B-side' seemed to embody what’s become an overused word: authenticity." Full Review

80
Time Out New York

"As efficient as the swing of an axe, 'The B-Side' is many things at once: a concert, a tribute to the vanished dead, a vivid evocation of the past...It seems that this kind of performative memorialization is the great gift of the Wooster Group...Although the Woosters’ tech-forward avant-gardism has sometimes seemed aggressive, it is revealing itself, in this rough world, as consistently, heartbreakingly gentle." Full Review

75
Stage Buzz

"Berryman in particular does an excellent job with the material...The only major problem is that it’s sometimes hard to clearly hear all of the song lyrics when the record is being played, and thus fully comprehend their meaning...Kate Valk’s direction works fine, the show and songs nicely segueing from one track to the next. Though the last few bands are presented without any narration; the use of which would have been helpful to make thing just a bit more complete and well-rounded." Full Review

70
Exeunt Magazine

“It’s an impressive, bravura piece of acting and singing on Berryman’s part, but there’s a pervading sense of something hollow looming over the show..For the final track...As he listens...His relationship with the record is clear, and it’s a chilling, effective moment. But it’s too brief. The passion of this man for this music reaches its apex when he is just silently appreciating it, which places a larger question mark behind the theatrics before it.” Full Review


90
Resonant, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Exquisite

See it if 3 performers precisely use vocals & gestures to bring an album of work songs to life. Transports you to that time & place. Amazing.

Don't see it if You don't want to relate to prison slave laborers in the deep south. You don't like blues music. You want a traditional narrative.

90
Ambitious, Enchanting, Great acting, Intense, Must see

See it if You are willing to actively engage with performance

Don't see it if Avant-garde theatre doesn't agree with you

Also What a goddamn finale

89
Engaging, Intimate, Powerful, Thought-provoking, Great singing

See it if 3 actors/singers channeling the music & soul of Black prisoners serving hard labor in 1960's Texas. Powerful, moving, haunting, absorbing.

Don't see it if you prefer verbal storytelling comprised of a beginning, middle and end. Here, the singing and the songs tell the story. Beautifully done.

89
Moving, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intelligent, Absorbing

See it if you like unusual theatrical experiences - 3 performers sing along to a record (only their voices are heard) of work songs/spirituals/blues*

Don't see it if you don't like minimalist sets or nontraditional theater; want flash and happy

Also *from black prisoners doing hard labor in Texas (similarities to slave... Read more Read less

86
Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Profound, Great singing, Ambitious

See it if you have an open mind to what theatre can be (i.e. not just a play or musical).

Don't see it if you're expecting a plot and story in the traditional sense.

85
A perfect little gem, Transporting, Moving

See it if "You've got to hear this album. I'll sing along with some friends. Southern prison work songs. It will move you."

Don't see it if This is not a play. It's a man playing a record and singing along. Slow. But it's as slow as it ought to be.

Also Didn't know what to expect my only reference was The Wooster Group's "... Read more Read less

85
Resonant, Great singing, Enchanting, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if BLM hits experimental theater! I enjoyed this much more than Early Shaker Spirituals, it's inspiration. If you're open to different theater.

Don't see it if You want a conventional story, but then why go to to St Anns or the Wooster group? . I would have liked a little more context however.

85
Resonant, Thought-provoking, Clever

See it if Want to absorb a part of our society's history in an unusual manner Enjoy the music or blues and gospel Like seeinga show that doesn't follo

Don't see it if Looking for a traditional play Need a lot of visual stimulus

84
Great singing, Entertaining, Clever

See it if You’re ready to let music transport you to another time and don’t need much more than the music to go there.

Don't see it if You want more than a musical performance.

Also Excellent singing brings to life the place, time and people in the neg... Read more Read less

83
Thought-provoking, Profoundly simple, An auditory immersion, Resonant, Great singing

See it if You appreciate vocal, a Capella music. Like American history told evocatively. Want to learn about the Black prisoner experience in Texas..

Don't see it if Need linearity in story-telling. Want a full blown, highly stylized production.

83
Deeply affecting, Resonant, Absorbing

See it if A totally absorbing appreciation of a sad era of American history where dignity is given to those who suffered via musical interpretation.

Don't see it if Elegiac in fact & in effect, there is a necessary slow pace to the hour-long show but it’s not a criticism.

81
Thought-provoking, Clever, Absorbing

See it if you're open to various forms of performance. This is a fascinating dive into an album, track-by-track, with live vocalists layering over it.

Don't see it if you're looking for and expecting to see a traditional play or musical. This is not that format, and you'll need to go in with an open mind.

79
Relevant, Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Great singing, Ambitious

See it if You enjoy spirituals & folk music even if unfamiliar, learning how Negro prisoners endured conditions, see how an actor developed this show

Don't see it if You don’t like plotless, short shows or all-singing, particularly to a record, very little action or limited set

79
Raw, Insightful, Curated, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

See it if you want to be part of a communal listening experience. It takes you inside the minds, songs, & heavy hearts of what these prisoners endured

Don't see it if you want a play with action. It's more like a curated immersion into an recorded album that reveals the history of prison slavery. Not fun.

78
Thought-provoking, Quirky, Relevant, Clever, Absorbing

See it if you like experimental theatre...this is like the serious, thoughtful version of Drowsy Chaperon / I enjoyed it very much /you like to think

Don't see it if you're expecting to be "entertained"...this is a work of scholarship, obsession and creativity and ultimately very rewarding

77
Resonant, Great singing

See it if this is a brief staging of a record of southern black prisoners singing. That's all it is. The voices are deeply evocative.

Don't see it if There is no plot, and very little narrative.

76
Great singing

See it if It's 3 people singing the entirety of the album - if you like this sort of music, you'll enjoy it.

Don't see it if It's very good, but other than some minimal video bits, it's just 3 people singing an album. If you want a play, this isn't. It's also short

75
Resonant, Intelligent, Great singing, Ambitious

See it if You want to hear an album reinvented because there's not much else to this 60 min show.

Don't see it if You're expecting a story because there isn't one.

Also I did enjoy this experience but it's something that could have been do... Read more Read less

72
Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Great singing, Disappointing, Clever

See it if Three talented men sing the words to an old album of black men singing on chain gangs in the south; a brief narrative, lovely music, moving

Don't see it if you want a play or any expansion on the story behind the album or what it means today. They just sing the album. Could've been much more.

Also Show-score should not be mixing the reviews from the earlier, intimate... Read more Read less

72
Disappointing, Slow

See it if you have a vested interest in the work of The Wooster Group

Don't see it if you're not okay with visual stagnancy

Also I love Liz and Kate's work. The Wooster Group is one of the most fasci... Read more Read less

70
Slow, Refreshing, Intelligent

See it if An auditory experience bringing an album of songs made by prisoners to life

Don't see it if Slow paced at times, not a lot of action just the album of music

95
Exquisite, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you want to see an era of black American life recreated in front of your eyes, with no artifice or phoniness.

Don't see it if you need an evening of literalism or a living room play.

90
Relevant, Resonant, Profound, Absorbing

See it if The B-Side is a case of less is more. They let the music speak for itself; they let those who sang be heard again. It is profoundly moving.

Don't see it if If you prefer conventional theater, this show is not for you. It doesn't shout; it speaks softly.

80
Clever, Relevant, Resonant, Slow

See it if you're willing to be patient, the technique of an actor interests you, you like shows that are more theatre than plays.

Don't see it if you don't like experimental theatre or a show with a character driven plot.


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Cast & Creatives (11)