Him: Six African-American men, all related or inter-related through their life situations if not by blood, aged 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60, all talking, singing, telling their life’s stories, all at the same time, all through the same yet different voice of one man – Daniel Beaty. Through Beaty’s voice modulations and stage sense, we learn to recognize, to know, and eventually to become powerfully connected to these 6 men, each of whom is deeply immersed in his own existential struggle to understand and improve his life circumstances.
Her: Beaty’s instant transformation, flowing gracefully from one character to the next, told the story of a neighborhood through the eyes of its African American male inhabitants. Although the descriptions of each could be described as caricatures, I found it illuminating in its simplicity. These men all wanted one thing, to find/maintain a meaningful life in the hardscrabble environs of modern day Harlem.
Him: The performance got more and more riveting, as Beaty’s manifestation of the personalities of his different characters began to reveal the connections between them – the father wanting the approval of his junk-food addicted friend the Preacher for his health food store, the ex-convict father-to-be whose job at the store is the only thing keeping him off the street, the college-bound high school graduate whose friend is the Preacher’s closeted gay son – and the 10-year old son of the store owner, the young scientist whose “experiments” in his “laboratory” are aimed at developing an herbal cure for the angst that ails all the men he knows, beginning with his father. By the end, it was impossible not to feel, deeply and personally, the pain in each of these men’s lives, and to want, desperately, for them to be granted redemption.
Her: Beaty provided a glimpse into the hearts of these men. He hit pitch-perfect notes of despair and highlighted some exact moments when I was whispering (slightly too loud for my seat neighbors) “don’t do it, get out of there” as several of the characters made choices that will effect their lives for years to come. Listening to their separate and collective stories, I felt the heartbreak of the inner city. That is quite an accomplishment for a play that had one guy, two folding chairs and a bottle of water on the stage.
-Seth Needler and Ariel Frager