By Lori Perkins
I wish I could go back in time and be a high school student who has just finished studying The Odyssey and have my class see Black Odyssey as a group and then discuss it.
Black Odyssey by Marcus Gardley, which finishes its Off-Broadway run this weekend, is just a brilliant piece of a classic reimagined. It takes the story of Homer’s Odyssey and rethreads it through a crash course of American Black history, culminating in contemporary Harlem. I was awed.
The play opens with a chorus, composed of the acting troupe, who are all excellent, in a sparse set around a boat that works miracles. The tale of Ulysses Lincoln and Nella P. (Penelope, get it?) is woven through African American historical events we are familiar with, and works. The plot weaves through The Middle Passage and Jim Crow laws with stops along the way for The Supremes and Super Fly and Treyvon Martin--sometimes silly, but always thought-provoking.
Playwright Gardley has written the screenplay for the latest incarnation of The Color Purple. I can’t wait to see what he does with that!