PlayMaker Repertory Company’s final commissioned performance of the season, “Spring Training,” brought the audience into a visceral vortex of four people’s very different rites of spring.
Universes, a spoken word and beat poetry group consisting of four performers, told the stories of different people struggling to overcome extraordinary obstacles in ordinary lives.
Thursday night’s performance began abruptly with the chilling and romantic voice of Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, who played a Puerto Rican character named Louisa. Her voice was brought out by the beat-boxing abilities of William Ruiz, who played a Hispanic character named Ricky.
At first, the abrasive nature of the beat poetry and rapping used by Ruiz and the others is hard to adjust to, but once the audience does adjust, it becomes a very raw way to experience each of their harsh stories.
Each of the characters is struggling with something different.
Louisa’s mother was murdered when she was a young teenager, Ricky watched the girl he loved get shot in a drive-by shooting, Trevor, played by Gamal Abdel Chasten, was bullied as a child and lost his father to suicide, and Geneva, portrayed by Steven Sapp, was part of a family who emigrated from the Caribbean during the Civil Rights Movement.
Each performer portrayed his or her character in a unique way, and truly drew the audience in with the way they enjoyed being on stage and performing with each other.
Ruiz used Spanish during his performance to bring up questions of acceptance of Spanish speakers in the United States. Though most audience members probably did not understand what he said, most people still seemed to relate to the genuine nature of his struggle.
Sapp’s performance stood out as one of the most interesting as a result of the wide variety of accents he could use, especially his Caribbean accent. His voice was loud and entertaining — he fully committed to playing his strong female character.
He also presented very interesting ideas that people do not contend with everyday, such as the beauty that can be found in a child teaching something to his or her parent.
The wordplay used in Sapp’s piece and the storytelling strategies made each word a hook for the audience, leaving them wondering what would happen next.
Ruiz-Sapp was the other performer whose story was compelling and humbling. When she spoke the natural and irresistible love that exists between a mother and daughter could be felt tangibly in the room.
Her performance raised the strongest questions for audience members about things including the importance of family, the idea of struggling between a native culture and something new and the struggle against homogeneity.
The part of the overall performances that made “Spring Training” cohesive and continually goosebump-raising for audience members was this fundamental theme of human connection that transcended all the stories.
The characters were trying to find their place in society, or were struggling to find out how to be themselves — a very common and relatable theme.
The blank backdrop of the stage with subtle lighting changes allowed the audience to be fully consumed by the issues each of the characters presented. The performance provided an emotional journey with an entirely new and refreshing rawness used to explore “The Rite of Spring.”
Assistant Arts Editor Josephine Yurcaba attended the April 25th performance of “Spring Training” and gives the performance 5 stars.
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