Breath, Boom, Pegasus Players. Ghetto stereotypes mandate that men hit and women get hit–but the teenage girls of Kia Corthron’s play, set in the South Bronx, reject the example of their abused mothers. Led by Prix, members of a girl gang experience the “empowerment” provided by the gang ethos, which gives them a false sense of control over their chaotic environment.
Corthron’s script, which is blessedly free of cliches, follows Prix from angry adolescence to weary adulthood, from age 18 to 30. A cold-blooded virago, she finds solace in homicidal fantasies about her stepfather and in the obsessive study of pyrotechnics: she wants to know the exact combination of colored lights that will invoke the calm following fireworks displays. (When she’s in the reformatory, the inmates plan their funerals the way most girls do their weddings–and Prix wants fireworks at hers.)
Under Ilesa Duncan’s adroit direction, and aided by Erin Kathleen Carlson’s fight choreography and Chris Johnson’s sound design (with “hip-hop consultant” Rodney Mason), the Pegasus Players cast depict their characters’ purgatorial lives with an articulate passion devoid of sensationalism and sentimentality. As Prix, Rain Wilson commands the stage with a chillingly understated presence, but Breath, Boom is ultimately an ensemble effort: the troupe’s expertise conjures up a vivid panorama of characters whose shadowy fates continue to haunt us.