Performing Arts: Theater
October 20, 2017
Spoken word artist and man with a conscience, Mark Bamuthi Joseph reaps inspiration from community around him and the world at large in his new piece /peh-LO-tah/ -- a futbol framed freedom suite.

A very thoughtful artist, Bamuthi Joseph layers politics, and culture in a mix of spoken word, movement, and visual projections by David Szlasa. Soccer becomes a metaphor for freedom, as seen through the prism of a racist history and urban America and trust.

By immersively employing a tangle of text, song, verse, athletic hip-hop dance and film he fashions a universe that is at once personal and global. Flanked by five marvelous performers of different ages and distinct personalities, Bamuthi considers the plight of Americans negotiating race relations against the backdrop of soccer. Why soccer—because it is a cooperative sport where the unit is more important than the individual. In contrast, capitalism insists on the individual.

Many ideas and recent headlines filter through the piece directed by Michael John Barces and move the action through the 90 minutes at a clip -- even if some fine-tuning would benefit the production’s overall impact.

Song breaks out in search of a moral life, one that can embrace all souls who do not feel safe in a community of perceived danger that shadows the savaged earth as well. A carefully constructed sound design by Tom Ontiveros weaves the charged score by Tommy Shepherd in and out of recorded sound and live singing.

Each performer steps away from the group to speak move and even sing about a particular event, global issue, or individual seeking justice, seeking acceptance, seeking themselves. Asked to do everything – sing, speak dance, act --choreographer Stacey Printz makes everyone look comfortable in his or her urban dances.

The animated performers include the thoughtful Amara Tabor-Smith; firecracker dancer and performer Traci Tolmaire; cocky Tommy Shepherd and the velvety voiced Yaw Agyeman.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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