Sunday, February 24, 2008

Through the Fire

"Liberty City" at New York Theatre Workshop, February 23, 2008

NYTW, in their 25th anniversary season, presents another tale of pain and growth with "Liberty City," a one-woman show performed by April Yvette Thompson and written by Ms. Thompson and Jessica Blank.

The story is that of Ms. Thompson's early life, growing up in the Liberty City neighborhood in Miami in the 1970s and 1980s. Ms. Thompson tells her tale from several perspectives, including her father, Saul Thompson (Sol?), her mother Lily, her grandmother Aunt Carolyn, and her aunt Valerie. The story is of a man trying to prepare his children to live in a world of discrimination and bigotry by understanding their history as descendants of African slaves.

Ms. Thompson moves between characters with effective physical postures (though least successfully distinguishing her mother from herself). Aunt Carolyn is actually the neighbor of her biological grandmother who abandoned her father on a search for his philandering father. Her parents' relationship, at first strong and united, falters when Saul gets more focused on the political power struggle of African-Americans in the '70s than supporting and tending to his own family. Lily turns to religion (Jehovah's Witness?) to fill the void, pushing Saul further away.

It is a very emotional experience for Ms. Thompson. She wipes her own eyes after scenes that recall the more difficult events in her family's life. This is a revealing and courageous performance.

Even with the raw emotion and tragic tale, Ms. Thompson effectively portrays the diverse characters who so strongly impacted her growing up, but she doesn't chart any new territory as was seen in Sarah Jones' "Bridge and Tunnel" in 2006.

Antje Ellerman's has created an excellent set, subtly defining the various worlds of Ms. Thompson's family, nicely complemented by David Lander's lighting. The video projections by Tal Yarden are more distraction than addition to the evening's proceedings since we see more visuals of a blue sky that never seems truly realized by the story being told.

Ms. Blank directs in addition to co-writing the script. She keeps things moving well. But, there were some bits of business such as Lily adding glue and glitter to a construction paper book of sorts, that also distract rather than enhance either character or story.

NYTW is offering a ticket discount to you. Please support them.

We'd also like to offer your readers the following discount:

Tickets for all performances February 15 – March 16 are just $25 each (reg. $45). Use code LCBLG88 when ordering.

To purchase tickets, call (212) 947-8844 or visit


Liberty City: a place where people of the African Diaspora have settled; where urban and island cultures rub up against each other, and the site of Miami’s infamous 1980 riots. Enter April Yvette Thompson – a child of children of the 60’s, the daughter of a Bahamian and Cuban father and an African American mother: free thinkers, young radicals and movement people. As the hope of the 60’s and 70’s gave way to the disillusionment and disintegration of the 80’s, April’s family struggled to survive and stay together. Part history, part imagination, Liberty City is her personal story that illuminates the lives of one family through the context of social, cultural, and political events.

New York Theatre Workshop also offers both Student Tickets and CheapTix Sundays.

CheapTix Sundays: All tickets for all Sunday evening performances at 7pm are just $20 each! Tickets are available in advance but must be purchased at the NYTW box office on a cash-only basis.

Student Tickets: Full-time students with a valid student ID may purchase $20 tickets for all performances (subject to availability). Limit one ticket per ID. Tickets must be purchased in person and require an ID at the box office.

The NYTW box office is located at 79 East 4th Street (between Second Avenue and Bowery) and is open Tuesday - Saturday from 1pm - 6pm.

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