World premiere of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks provocative White Noise directed by Oskar Eustis.
By: Patrick Christiano
April 25, 2019: The prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog/Underdog,” “In The Blood”) demands to be heard in her return to The Public with the world premiere of her compelling tale, White Noise, about race and friendship. Oskar Eustis’s crisp, realistic staging with four excellent actors gives the play a naturalism and urgency that allows you to, almost, suspend disbelief when the playwright puts forth a bizarre premise.
Long-time friends Leo (Daveed Diggs), Misha (Sheria Irving), Ralph (Thomas Sadoski), and Dawn (Zoe Winters) are conscious, well educated, progressive, urban city dwellers. Dawn and Leo are a committed interracial couple, and their friends, Misha and Ralph, are as well. When a racially motivated conflict with the police leaves Leo shaken and his face severely scraped from being pushed into the sidewalk, he decides extreme measures are necessary for his well-being and protection. He wants to become Ralph’s slave.
The realistic staging with four excellent actors gives the evening an urgency that goes a long way to making it feel like a play, but the ideas don’t really come together with fully developed characters. The first act begins nicely, establishing the relationships and the set-up, but the second act is little more than a series of well written witty scenes that don’t ring true. Parks throws in so many amusing contrivances, that little feels authentic. The scenes are filled with wonderful dialogue and thought-provoking, fresh ideas, but they don’t come together as a cohesive whole.
Still, the evening is always entertaining, even surprising, and Parks makes many compelling points, while Eustis’ steady hand allows us to suspend disbelief, just enough, to ask what if? Very clever indeed.
White Noise ****
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street (at Astor Place)
New York, NY 10003
For Tickets 212 – 967.7555
Estimated Run Time: 3 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission
March 5 – May 5, 2019
Photography: Joan Marcus