iNegro, a rhapsody by Kareem M. Lucas directed by Zoey Martinson, is a compelling and heartfelt solo performance. Lucas addresses race, family, and personal struggles in this dynamic fifty-minute show.
The character, "The Poet," begins with a poetic and powerful rant on how he wants to "write something so black...." He proceeds to use funny and, at times, gut-punching examples of finishing that sentence. Some of which include, "I want to write something so black that everyone who hears it automatically gets diabetes" or "that instead of ending with applause, it ends with everyone doing the electric slide together." This refrain sets the tone for this humorous, emotional, and powerful show.
Lucas writes that he was inspired by the "tradition of Adrienne Kennedy and Samuel Beckett, an absurdist abstraction born of disillusionment and a fierce self-excavation." This performance definitely digs deep! The Poet tells of his profoundly rooted disappointment with himself, the world, and this society. He feels let down by his father, Jesus- the Father and America. His pain is felt in every word and breath. Lucas is a skilled and engaging performer that captures the emotion behind the words and the history of his journey. The set by David Goldstein and lighting by Josh Martinez-Davis is executed superbly. The image of a man on a cross for the entirety of the show is moving. Imagining the physical discomfort of bearing a cross to the emotional load of the cross is powerful. The shift in lighting transitions the character's mental state and moves the monologue forward.
iNegro,a rhapsody is "an Afro-surrealist solo show that uses poetry, prose, humor, wit, fear, love, and scripture." Lucas aims to take the audience "on a relentless rollercoaster ride through a young Black man's consciousness as he carves out the space to wrestle with his community, his culture, and himself." Lucas has indeed carved out space for himself in the narrative. His performance and words are needed now more than ever. It may be a bit uncomfortable at times, especially in the moments of blunt truth and emotional vulnerability, but change hurts sometimes, and this play can pave the way.
iNegro, a rhapsody is part of a trilogy titled 3 Ages of a Negro. The plays in the series follow "The Poet" in different stages of his life. iNegro, a rhapsody, runs through May 14.
"iNegro, a rhapsody"
Written and Performed by Kareem M. Lucas
Directed by Zoey Martinson
Production Concept by Stevie Walker-Webb
Running Time: 50 minutes
April 28 – May 14, 2022
The New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher Street, 1E, New York, NY 10014)
Yani Perez, M.F.A, is a poet, playwright, translator, and educator. Her plays have been presented in various theaters in the United States such as La Mama and Yale University as well as internationally in Bogotá, Colombia. She works at IATI Theater, one of the oldest Latinx theaters in NYC. She is currently working on translations of Latinx artists in hopes of introducing them to English-speaking audiences.