A review originally published in BACKSTAGE by Hoyt Hilsman
April 15, 2009
The one-person show is among the most difficult of theatrical forms. How does the performer hold the attention of the audience for a full evening all by himself or herself? George A. Peters II, along with co-creator B. Fontenot Johnson, has mastered the form in his one-man elegy to the black man, in which he portrays with grace and power characters ranging from Adam in the Garden of Eden to a homeless man on the streets of an urban jungle.
Peters, who has toured the show around the country and been devoted to this project for five years, summons the audience as participants, drawing them in with improvised interplay and cueing off their laughter or awkward silences. The theme of the piece is man’s fall from grace, beginning with Adam and progressing through a number of African-American characters who face challenges that emanate in part from race and culture but mostly from the condition of being human.
Willie, an angry young man abandoned by his father and scorned by his mother, rages at women even as he desperately seeks their attention. Wesley, a gay artist, struggles with definitions of manhood and never seems quite satisfied with the answers that emerge. Victor, a 5-year-old boy, fights to overcome his fear of the dark and ultimately begins a journey to adulthood. Man-Tan, an archetypal character who wears mime gloves, is a prophet in the wilderness, largely unheard. And Bishop, that homeless man whom many of us pass by every day, reveals the wisdom of his madness.
As directed by Hezekiah Lewis, Peters is an energetic, versatile, creative, and intelligent theatrical presence. There is clearly a strong intellect at work behind each of these characters and a powerful central theme that unifies the onstage action. Peters has done a lot of hard work on this show, and the payoff is impressive. Kudos also to costume designer Tamechi Toney Brigz for imaginative wardrobes that are a perfect fit for each character, and to Travis Murray for a sparse set that reinforces the power of the piece.