In 1965 a wonderful playwright and director, Douglas Turner Ward, wrote the amazing satiric play Day of Absence. It helped launch the iconic Negro Ensemble Company in New York City. The mission of the Company was to present live theatre written by and about black people to a culturally diverse audience that was and is often underserved by the theatrical community.
Day of Absence was then and is now a timely production that should open the eyes to all of America…and beyond.
The play takes place in a quiet southern town that falls into chaos when one day the white people wake up to notice that all the Black people have disappeared. Day of Absence is traditionally performed as a ‘reverse minstrel show,’ with black actors in white-face.
Congo Square Theatre celebrates its 20th Anniversary season by bringing this iconic play into to the twenty-first century. The funny thing is that not much has changed.
Director Anthony Irons has included the disappearance of black and brown citizens to this production. He has successfully made this play so relevant while maintaining the humor of the situation. The way he integrated films, TV shows, and songs that we all know added flavor to what could have been a dated script. In fact, the audience was laughing so loud some of the dialogue was lost, however, the meaning was not.
The cast is amazing with perfect timing and energy. I was a little worried because Day of Absence was the first play I performed in as a theatre major. It is my all-time favorite play because of the in depth meaning behind all the humor. My fears were set aside when Jordan Arredondo and Ronald L. Connor opened the show as two friends, Luke and John who first notice that there aren’t any black or brown people at the mall. I was laughing till tears ran. Founding Congo Square Ensemble member, Ann Joseph as the Mayor and Ronald L. Connor as her assistant Jackson are hilarious.
While the play is funny and an enjoyable evening at the theater, it is scary that nothing has changed. That the significance and importance of black and brown people to society is so taken for granted that we would have to be missing before our worth and accomplishments are seen. OR we can all go to the polls and really let them know the power of Black and Brown Americans.
Congo Square Theatre Company’s Day of Absence is playing at the Victory Gardens’ Richard Christiansen Theatre through March 22, 2020. You do not want to miss this powerful production.
I give it 5 out of 5 Winks of the EYE.
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!