"Good Goods" at Yale Rep

    ---Irene Backalenick

What’s it all about, one asks, in contemplating “Good Goods,” the “world premiere” now at Yale Repertory Theatre. For starters, it is about a black community -- appropriate to the company’s annual observance of Black History Month. The viewer settles in, looking for echoes of August Wilson.

 

But this is no August Wilson play, with Wilson’s real people and sense of time and community. On the contrary, “Good Goods,” with its pretentious goals and its muddled execution, falls short of expectations. Where is August Wilson when we need him?

 

This time, playwright Christina Anderson combines numerous elements in her particular examination of a black community. Her play, she explains rather pretentiously, deals with layers of time and unfolds in no particular or recognizable place. She claims to examine metaphysical questions of life, mortality, and the reasons for existence. Also in the mix are such themes as love, possessiveness, exorcism, voodooism.

 

The story deals with a woman, a performer, who returns to her home town, where she meets up with her twin brother and her one-time fellow performer, now owner of a general store. She brings along a young girl who has caught her eye. As these people interact, alliances and romances are formed and reformed.

 

An exotic stew indeed, with its numerous fragments strewn across the stage and throughout the script. But does the ambitious playwright pull it off? Alas, no. The scattered elements are never integrated. Characters and their relationships are introduced, but never developed. There is no preparation for sudden declarations of love. Furthermore, one cannot feel empathy for any one of the characters or care for their failures or successes.

 

Yet the performers -- Marc Damon Johnson, Clifton Duncan, Kyle Beltran, De’Adre Aziza, Angela Lewis, and Oberon K. A. Adjepong -- are fine. The latter, as the conjurer, mixes comedy and drama in a heady stew, and Angela Lewis, as the possessed girl, gives a memorable performance. Moreover, playwright Anderson, and the play’s director Tina Landau, have a sense of theater and melodrama, well supported by James Schuette’s set and Scott Zielinski’s lighting designs. Some moments, with bursts of music or the explosive results of an exorcism, are like momentary flashes of lighting.

 

But, such moments and such performances do not save the play. “Good Goods” certainly needs considerable work to become really good goods.

 

This review also appears on nytheaterscene.com


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