Get Cultured — February 16, 2015 at 4:00 pm

“Paradox Of the Urban Cliché” Provides Its Own Answers to Our Times

by
Photo credit:  Bjon Bolinder

Photo credit: Bjorn Bolinder

“Ni***s really want it bad in the hood” are words that are said by Ceez, the main character, within the first 10 minutes of the play “Paradox of the Urban Cliché.” He says this to make his antagonist understand the way he lives. Why do I start my review like this? Because he wasn’t saying that to his antagonist alone, no, he was saying that to us (the audience), too, in order for us to understand and have a grasp of his reality, which will ultimately lead us to be enlightened by it. He lives in a world where people want really bad, because you don’t get anything any other way.

“Paradox Of The Urban Cliché,” written by Craig ‘muM’s Grant, puts us right in the middle of a police investigation where Ceez (portrayed by Jaime Lincoln Smith) is suspected of a crime we don’t know anything about yet. During the course of the play, we live his life with him. Connecting the dots that put him where he is, breathing the air where rules don’t apply and people have been forgotten. But it’s 2015, and the forgotten people have become unwanted. As he grows older he realizes what his life has actually become, and the honest answer hits him like a ton of bricks. You were never meant to enjoy life, just to survive it. Like Kendrick Lamar said in his song Ab Soul Outro:

“See I’ve spent twenty three years on the earth searching for answers

’til one day I realized I had to come up with my own

I’m not on the outside looking in, I’m not on the inside looking out

I’m in the dead f****** center, looking around.”

Paradox600

The desperation that the black community in America exists in is portrayed as real as the bravery they’ve shown when in times of struggle. Struggle is all they know in the hood. Craig ‘muMs’ Grant has giving us a true and powerful lyrical play in which we are not asked to judge or to be judged, but to experience and come to terms of our own. In this day and age, the conversation about racism can no longer be ignored, but it can’t be forced. Grants opens up the discussion by providing both sides of the story without compromising his vision or pointing proverbial fingers. At times the play seems like they are speaking hip-hop lyrics, yet it doesn’t seem unrealistic. In fact, the whole show feels like a hip-hop song — an amazing one detailing the realities that we don’t like to hear, but dance to when it comes with beats. And as it works in music, it works on stage, easing apprehensive people into accepting the harsh facts that a majority of this country lives in.

But, as great as the writing skills Grant possesses, the hard task to portray the personification of the African-American battle is not an easy one. Thank the universe Jaime Lincoln Smith is up for it, and in what a way! His performance is raw, intense, comical, and heartbreaking all in one. His attitude is tough as nails, his heart soft like pudding. Love has made him that way, and love will betray him. After all, people in the hood can’t love the way others do. Smiles (Eboni Flowers) is the representation of that love, the broken kind that needs healing. Eboni Flowers brings the rage of indignation, the anger of oppression, and ultimately the resignation that some black people have turn to. Let themselves become what’s expected, because what else is there?

Photo credit:  Bjon Bolinder

Photo credit: Bjorn Bolinder

The other two cast members, Morgan James Nichols and Jamie Lincoln Smith, are as responsible bringing this nasty side of the world to us. Their acting, uncompromising, they are us. People trying to understand the horrors that can happen in the projects, learning that the hoodlums are given few choices, that not everybody has somebody telling him or her they can be better. Davis portrays two characters, one outside Ceez’s world, and one inside. Both completely different, yet equally effective.

Directed by Reginald Douglas, and presented by Poetic Theater Productions, this show is a wonder to watch, but not an easy subject to sit through. Leave it to the technical crew to make it even more exciting than it already is. Using projection as set pieces, the work of the designers create environments where we can submerge ourselves, and once in, can’t let go of. The simple yet intricate set, the enticing sounds, the bombastic lighting, and the strong performances combine to create a must see play this year. Especially for these times.

“Paradox Of the Urban Cliché” is part of the Poetic License: subconscious Festival being presented downtown at The Wild Project(195 E 3rd St.) until February 22. I suggest you check the times you can go see it, and run to it. I don’t know if there’s a more important script out there for our times, but what I’m sure of is that this production is the most important I’ve seen. I went with a friend that is very critical, and she felt the same way. This is the kind of work that we need more of.

Out of four stars, Craig ‘muMs’ Grant’s play gets:

4 stars

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Twisted Talk: What’s the best off-Broadway show you’ve seen lately? Have you been to a show at The Wild Project before? Discuss below!

2 Comments

  1. I am so very glad to have been able to experience this play.

  2. Pingback: “Promising” Asks the Questions You Hate to Ask Yourself

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