(Cover Photo: Jon Vellante as “Thomas” and Valyn Lyric Turner as “Dottie” in a scene from Phaedra Michelle Scot's "DIASPORA!" from New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, MA. now playing through October 15, 2023. Photo Courtesy Ken Yotsukura Photography)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
“If you keep wallowing, we can’t change anything. The future belongs to those who prepare for it today. (Pause) Onto the next fight."
- ("Dottie") / Phaedra Michelle Scott
Written by Phaedra Michelle Scott
Directed by Pascale Florestal °
Cast Includes: Lorraine Victoria Kanyike as “Sunny”; Serenity S'rae as “Janae”; Jae Woo* as “John”; Sean Patrick Gibbons* as “Patrick”; Jon Vellante* as “Thomas/Robert”; Valyn Lyric Turner as “Dottie”.
Additional Creative team:
Elizabeth Ramirez* - Production Stage Manager; Athéna-Gwendolyn Baptiste - Assistant Stage Manager; Janie Howland - Scenic Designer; Lauren Stetson - Lighting Designer; Becca Jewett - Costume Designer; James Cannon - Sound Designer; Diego Farrell - Technical Director.
* Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States
** Represented by United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829 of the IATSE
° Stage Directors and Choreographers Society
THE BLACK BOX THEATER AT THE MOSESIAN CENTER FOR THE ARTS
321 Arsenal St, Watertown, MA 02472
September 13, 2023 to October 15, 2023
(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)
COVID 19 PROTOCOLS
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New Repertory Theatre (New Rep) presents “DIASPORA!” a new play by Phaedra Michelle Scott that proves itself to be absolutely delightful.
The play was a SpeakEasy Stage commission as part of their Boston Project, developed and workshopped in Boston from 2017-2019.
There is a marvelous eccentricity to the material that is driven by exceptional dialogue written by Scott with an overwhelming "O Henry" vibe to the story reminiscent of "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling.
The story floats between 1952 and 2018 set in a hundred-year-old old apartment located between Roxbury and Boston’s Mission Hill residential area.
Everything in the apartment looks old because it is old - from the wallpaper to paint, from the crown molding above down to the baseboards.
(Photo: Lorraine Victoria Kanyike as “Sunny,” Serenity S'rae as “Janae,” Sean Patrick Gibbons as “Patrick" and Jae Woo as “John” in a scene from Phaedra Michelle Scot's "DIASPORA!" from New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, MA. now playing through October 15, 2023. Photo Courtesy Ken Yotsukura Photography)
In 2018, we meet Sunny (Lorraine Victoria Kanyike), a Black idealist and author who is writing a history about the legacy of her family.
Kanyike is a strong, likeable presence throughout much of the show as she is on stage through most of the events that take place.
Sunny has set out to obtain DNA genealogical information regarding her biological heritage to uncover a family mystery. She hopes to finish soon as she is engaged to be married and will soon be leaving her rental sharing situation.
To the contrary, Sunny's niece, Janae (Serenity S'rae), wants to reject everything about her ancestry in favor of a destiny she can create on her own - one with no ties to her white great grandfather.
S'rae is terrific as the feisty young Janae, a Black student in college who has gotten involved in a Black militant organization on campus and, as such, she has rejected anything concerning her family's American history and instead embraces her African heritage.
Sunny's roommate, Patrick (Sean Patrick Gibbons), is a charming performer who is both a dreamer and sentimentalist. Patrick seeks to ask his boyfriend, John (Jae Woo), to move in with him once Sunny leaves.
John is a Korean-American who feels “stuck” in between cultures, neither of which he feels accepts him. He also works in the facility that does the DNA testing Sunny needs in order to hopefully find some answers to her many questions about her family's past.
There is great onstage chemistry between Gibbons and Woo which is evident in any scene in which they appear together.
(Photo: Sean Patrick Gibbons as “Patrick,” Lorraine Victoria Kanyike as “Sunny” and Serenity S'rae as “Janae” in a scene from Phaedra Michelle Scot's "DIASPORA!" from New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, MA. now playing through October 15, 2023. Photo Courtesy Ken Yotsukura Photography)
Sunny feels as if she is being "haunted" by strange sounds emanating from her apartment, then discovers an important book that mysteriously appears out of no where. Could this be the acts of spirits guiding her to her answers or, perhaps, trying to prevent her from finding those answers? Either way, she doesn't know.
However, steadfast, she pushes ahead in her research to solve the mystery of her unknown grandparents, determined to confront her past head on in order to put these "spirits" to rest.
In 1952, we "look back" upon Dorothy, aka “Dottie” (Valyn Lyric Turner) - a young Black woman and Thomas (Jon Vellante), a young white dreamer and Civil Rights attorney with a "target on his back."
Similar to Gibbons and Woo, Turner and Vellante have unmistakable chemistry on stage and, even in moments where almost no words are spoken, their expressions speak volumes.
(Photo: Jon Vellante as “Thomas” and Valyn Lyric Turner as “Dottie” in a scene from Phaedra Michelle Scot's "DIASPORA!" from New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, MA. now playing through October 15, 2023. Photo Courtesy Ken Yotsukura Photography)
The set is shared between the two timelines which "intersect" on stage at times. A very clever staging by director Pascale Florestal.
Later, we meet Robert (also played by Vellante) is an aspiring writer who, in reality, serves as a repairman for Sunny's building who exposes a long kept secret to Sunny.
The final few moments of the show that moves into its curtain call seem far too silly for words but, if you are into KPOP at all, it successfully ends the show with unbridled fun and enthusiasm.
It should be noted that the set is shared by another wonderful New Rep production running in tandem with "DIASPORA!" - "A RAISIN IN THE SUN." For a review of that production, follow the link below.
Catch "DIASPORA!" which plays in Watertown until October 15th.
Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
"DIASPORA!" follows Sunny, a writer tracing her lineage to find a long-lost grandparent.
Aided by her niece, her best friend, and her best friend’s new boyfriend, she searches for answers in history.
Time begins to cross over, and we find ourselves in Boston during the rise of the civil rights movement and a certain young minister making waves at the Twelfth Baptist Church and Boston University.
Says author Phaedra Michelle Scott:
“Sunny, an idealistic black millennial, is writing a history about the legacy of her family. Her younger sister, Janae wants to reject everything about her ancestry in favor of a created one. Sunny discovers the mystery of her grandparents and decides to confront her past head on in order to put the spirits in her life to rest.”
"DIASPORA!" was a SpeakEasy Stage commission as part of their Boston Project, developed and workshopped in Boston from 2017-2019.
ABOUT NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
New Repertory Theatre (NRT) aims to be regionally focused, driven by diverse interests and stories drawn from the communities surrounding us. We will prioritize a collaborative process centered on new work, new voices, and creative programming in order to produce memorable, evocative performing arts experiences. NRT looks to broaden the theatre scene in greater Boston by giving voice and interpretation to stories and artists whose perspectives are often underrepresented, but whose experiences are relevant for everyone. We want to reimagine how this theatre company can best serve the community that includes both artists and the audience. New Rep remains committed to staging productions and events that speak to the vital ideas of our time. Inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and accountability (IDEAA) will infuse every aspect of our work as we build community collaborations and give voice to the diverse interests of those communities. .
NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
80 Elm Street
Watertown, MA 02472