port of harlem magazine
 
Mosaic Theater
 
Theory @ Mosaic Theater, Very Contemporary
 
November 7 – November 20, 2019
 
Entertainment

theory



Shakespeare’s plays have proven to be timeless. “Theory” by Norman Yeung is deeply about our time.

From the modernly furnished set by Daniel Ettinger, to the diversity of characters and the contemporary problems Professor Isabella face make “Theory” a progressive, contemporary play eyeballing our future. It is worth seeing because the play will stay with you beyond its 85-mintue, no intermission run.

The play opens with Isabella exclaiming to her students “Thoughts!”  Isabella is on a mission to give her students the freedom to think out of the box using modern teaching tools via the Internet.  However, it is a freedom that most of them don’t want.  “I give them mile. They don’t take an inch,” she sighs.

The students are not “do your thang, do what you wanna do” children of the 1970s, they want safe boundaries.  It is through the discussions about the transgressions they place on the Internet that Chinese-Canadian playwright Yeung cleverly makes the students distinct, three-dimensional, and interesting characters.

Safina, for instance, played by Tyasia Velines, is the most memorable student. She is weird, but typical. She is nerdy, but profound.  Her character reminded me of Freddie, from TV's “A Different World.” Not having seen her in other roles, I can only give Velines an A+ for acting.

Only during the middle of the play, did I pick up my phone to see how much longer I had to sit. Maybe, this was around the time Yeung had Isabella react irrationally like the stereotypical White girl in a horror film. 

However, the subplot began to unfold and the play began to pick up again as Yeung further intertwined the subplot centering around Isabella (Musa Gurnis) and her spouse Lee(Andrea Harris Smith) into the main story. Their relationship no longer was the portrait on the wall, but in integral part of the room. Not knowing the personal backgrounds of Gurnis and Smith, they too probably get an A+ for presenting a believable, loving, interracial, same-sex couple.
I cannot say who would also love this performance, but I could see those with a preference for using dial-phone-party-lines having a hard time enjoying the show.
With the contemporary issues painting the play, the performance at times was really funny, though it is far from being a comedy.  The ending was even more out of the box, as it turned more deeply into a thriller, a genre which I don’t like. However, it ended with me feeling like this is going to be a story that I am really going to remember, re-tell, and process beyond the final bow.

I cannot say who would also love this performance, but I could see those with a preference for using dial-phone-party-lines having a hard time enjoying the show.
 
 
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