The Cosby Show became a staple in many black families' households on September 20, 1984. The sitcom aired for eight seasons until April 30, 1992, and it focused on an upper-middle-class African-American family living in Brooklyn, New York. The Cosby Show painted a picture of hope for black people as to how we wanted the world to see us as an educated, intelligent family that can easily blend in with white America. However, even with that depiction, racial profiling of African-Americans is still a deeply troubling national problem within the United States.
Playwright Tracy Conyer Lee, who is known for writing plays on relationships and family dysfunctions, shares an intimate and thought-provoking play called Rabbit Summer. Redtwist Theatre is where we peek into the lives of Wilson, Ruby, and Claire. Set in the suburb of Ohio in 2020, we meet Wilson (Kevin Tre 'Von Patterson) and Ruby (Brooke Reams). Their daughter is away at summer camp, and Wilson, who desires to have a son, see this time as the perfect opportunity to expand his family. He seizes the chance to kill the rabbit—a term used to get a positive pregnancy test result, but Ruby has other intentions.
To all intents and purposes, their marriage seems perfect. Wilson dotes on Ruby and worships her as his wife, but Ruby feels Wilson doesn't share his emotions and hides behind his fears of not wanting to be like his father. Feeling helpless and trapped in her Huxtable-like existence, she comes up with a secret plan, reshaping their views about life and redefining their marriage, which is now under fire by new lies and old secrets.
Additional complications arise when Ruby's friend Claire (Deveon Bromby) loses her husband due to a controversial police tragedy. Ruby offers her home so Claire can recover; however, her visit causes a dysfunctional reunion were fears of love, life, and lies start to crack a seemingly picture-perfect marriage and friendship.
Rabbit Summer is a fast-moving tragicomedy that is well-written and performed by three exceptional actors. On the night we were there, only a few people in the audience by the cast gallantly performed like the house was fulled. The triple threat performances of Reams, Bromby, and Patterson were flawless as they flowed effortlessly through the script. It was like peeking into the lives of three people fighting to survive the injustice against African-Americans. Bromby is phenomenal as Claire, who's heartbroken, and depressed masking her feelings of sorrow with fury. Reams fits prefect as the quasi Betty Crocker wife and the closet rebel, aka Bonnie (to Clyde) personality as Ruby. The centerpiece of the trio is Wilson. Patterson, as Wilson, who is fighting to be more like Cliff Huxtable, then the reality of his father, Reggie, provides a haunting remember the pain a child feels feeling fatherless. Each role shines a light on the frustrations and fears of African-Americans.
Patterson's role as Wilson shines a light on how men as fathers feel when their fathers fail to properly train up a child, regardless of the color of their skin. Reams' role highlights the agony of trying to live up to the desires of others, albeit in a relationship or life, and what a person will do while facing the fears of not meeting those expectations. Bromby's role shines a damning but necessary light of injustice. How surprisingly, still today, African-Americans are paralyzed by the difficulties of living while black.
A theater friend recommended us to see this play, and we were so happy that they did. Rabbit Summer is another play that shines a light of the violence, brutality, and the negative views about African-Americans by whites and those behind the blue shield. It's just sad that these eye-opening plays, including 'Kill Move Paradise,' by playwright James Ijames and directed by Wardell Julius Clark, are shown only during Black History Month.
From an interview with the playwright, Lee expresses her feelings of frustration but reminds the readers that helpless and hopeless is not her style. She does this by using characters with the audacity to speak about what needs to change in our society.
The question this play asks the audience is, "Can you bear the weight?" The weight of being black and blue, dealing with police shootings, infidelity, selfishness, daddy issues, marital strife, and whether or not to have children. After seeing the robust performance of three characters coming to life in Tracy Conyer Lee's play 'Rabbit Summer,' you will walk away wondering if anyone can say yes.
Let's Play 'Highly Recommended' Rabbit Summer at The Redtwist Theatre.
by Tracey Conyer Lee
Through March 22, 2020
Filed under: ChicagoNow