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.
“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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
“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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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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