Review: Megastasis (Eclipse Theatre)

| July 19, 2017

Anthony Conway, Ashley J. Hicks and Gregory Fenner star as Tray, Gina and Dubby in Megastasis            
      

  

Megastasis
   
Written by Kia Corthron
Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport (map)
thru Aug 20  |  tix: $30  |  more info    
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Relevant world premiere tells a story that needs to be told

  

Gregory Fenner, Anthony Conway, Ashley J. Hicks and Christian Castro star in Megastasis

    
Eclipse Theatre Company presents
    
Megastasis

Review by Lauren Whalen

The opening scene of Megastasis is (pun intended) arresting. Two young black men drink out of paper bags and have a casual conversation – a conversation that is frequently interrupted by a rotation of cops stopping to frisk them. Every time, they put their hands on their heads without protesting, as this is part of their lives, and has been for years. Kia Corthron’s world premiere is far from perfect – more often than not it’s very slow and is full-to-bursting with unnecessary exposition. Still, it’s easy to see why Eclipse Theatre Company’s 2017 season is all Corthron: this playwright is telling the stories that need to be told.

Darren Jones stars as Dex in Megastasis by Kia Corthron, Eclipse TheatreMegastasis follows Tray (Anthony Conway), one of the young men in the play’s opening scene. While Tray’s cousin Dubby (Gregory Fenner) is at college, Tray lives with their grandfather Dex (Darren Jones), working at Walgreens for minimum wage and raising his six-month-old daughter Mica. Life in New York City isn’t easy, especially for young people of color, but Tray is making it work and trying to stay out of trouble. However, one mistake at a party will lead to a downward spiral that will change Tray’s life – and the lives of those around him – forever.

The mistake Tray makes is relatively minor, but as a young black man, the consequences are dire and extend far and wide. Corthron explores the “war on drugs” of the 1980’s and how its effects have extended to the present day. Poor people of color are targeted, white people of means let off easy, over and over. Through the eyes of Tray, who’s flawed like the rest of us but is doing his best, Corthron spotlights the wide discrepancies in the American legal system and how prejudice can and does ruin the lives of entire families. As with Force Continuum, which Eclipse produced last spring, Corthron’s writing isn’t perfect: early scenes are bloated with exposition, the action tends to drag (director Aaron Todd Douglas tries his best but can’t move things along enough with the material he’s been given), and most of the play consists of people sitting around and talking.

Gregory Fenner, Anthony Conway and Ashley J. Hicks star as Dubby, Tray and Gina in MegastasisMartasia Jones and Anthony Conway star as Nakeesha and Tray in Megastasis, Eclipse Theatre Anthony Conway and Christian Castro star as Tray and Barfly in Megastasis, Eclipse TheatreGregory Fenner and Anthony Conway star as Dubby and Tray in Megastasis, Eclipse Theatre

While Douglas can’t do a lot to pick up the pace, his direction shows true empathy for the characters, especially Tray and his grandfather, Dex. Douglas brings out the complexities of Corthron’s script with skill and heart: these are real people, just trying to do their best, with different views of the American Dream and what it means to, and for, them. Sarah Espinoza’s sound design puts the audience right in the moment, and dramaturg Taylor Barfield provides enlightening lobby displays outlining the war on drugs and the staggering statistics of the U.S. prison system. The cast, most of whom play several roles, perfectly embody the positive and negative forces surrounding Tray. Fenner provides much-needed comic relief as Dubby, while Jones is a soulful, sympathetic Dex. And Conway’s Tray is intelligent and complicated, a protagonist worth following even when he doesn’t do the right thing.

Eclipse’s mission of “one playwright one season” allows the audience to delve into a specific body of work, and the mind behind it. Corthron, whose previous works have also explored issues with Israel, Palestine and Iraq, brings an intimate, human perspective to current events. Megastasis, which is enjoying its world premiere with Eclipse Theatre, has a few bugs in the script but is a worthwhile theatrical experience. I know I’m still thinking about it today.

  
Rating: ★★★
  

Megastasis continues through August 20th at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 7:30pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets are $30 (seniors & students: $20), and are available by phone (773-935-6875) or online at OvationTix.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at EclipseTheatre.com(Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

Anthony Conway, Ashley J. Hicks and Gregory Fenner star as Tray, Gina and Dubby in Megastasis

Photos by Scott Dray


  

artists

cast

Anthony Conway (Tray), Gregory Fenner (Dubby), Darren Jones (Cop, Dex, Guard), Ashley J. Hicks (Cop, Gina, Nurse, Costumer), Martasia Jones (Cop, Nakeesha, Assistant, Mica), Christian Castro (Cop, Reiger, Barfly)

Understudies: Samuel Campbell III (Tray/Dubby), Nick Dorado (Reiger), Allan Judan (Dex), Kendra Turner (Nakeesha, Mica), Megan Walter (Gina)

behind the scenes

Aaron Todd Douglas (director), Kevin Scott (scenic design, managing director), Mike Winkelman (lighting design), Sarah Espinoza (sound design), Zachery Wagner (costume design), Vanessa Thomas (properties design), TayLar (assistant director), Ashley Bowman (stage manager), Caroline Foulk (assistant stage manager), Sammi Grant (dialect coach), Taylor Barfield (dramaturg), Ashley Bowman, Kathleen Dickinson (production managers), JP Pierson (casting director), Zach Bloomfield, Celeste M. Cooper (casting associates), Nat Swift (artistic director), Scott Dray (photos)

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Athenauem, Eclipse Theatre Company, Lauren Whalen, New Work, World Premier

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