Kosi Dasa, Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre, at Victory Gardens Theater. Shepsu Aakhu’s new play frames philosophical issues–individuality versus community and freedom versus obligation–in the context of African religion. As directed by Mignon McPherson Nance, the story occasionally has the resonance of myth as a girl and boy in a traditional village fall in love (though Elizabeth Isibue and Kevin Douglas never quite convince us of that). Then the girl’s father commits a crime and he must sacrifice her, making her handmaiden-concubine to the Keeper, the guardian of an altar. She believes she should stay and do what is in the best interest of her family and community while the boy believes they should run away together.
Inevitably tragedy strikes, but midway through, the story collapses into vague action and stilted dialogue, and this innovative production never quite comes together. There’s a lot happening besides the plot: coming-of-age ceremonies, ritual dances, explanations of how this religion structures the universe. Three musicians play pleasing rhythms throughout, and the ensemble remains in a circle around the action, responding to one another as if this were a play by and for villagers.
The cast should be commended for smoothly integrating Earl Alphonso Fox into the role of the Keeper, originally played by Al Boswell, who died in a car accident just before what was expected to be opening night last week. It seemed Fox had been performing the part from the beginning.