A review by Suzanne Birrell
Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea written by Nathan Alan Davis is a masterful story presented in a style which embraces all cultures. The theme is universal - to connect with our ancestors. It is the story of a dream and the pursuit of that dream. It is the story of a family and the ties that bind and the love that lets go.
Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea is a wonderful theatrical experience.
The journey starts with a sleeping Dontrell Jones III. Around him dance spirits of his African ancestors singing to the Rhythm of a djembe. He wakes and takes the recorder and starts: "Captain's Log." And so we laugh as Dontrell begin his journey to retrieve a grandfather from the depths of the sea.
Dontrell is a work of art. It is theatre in its purist form. A Greek (African) chorus, dance, song, rap, soliloquies, incredibly poetic and beautiful language, pantomime, a soap opera, and many quotable quotes that should appear on T-shirts. We laughed and occasionally brush aside a tear as we accompany Dontrell on his odyssey. Though Davis writes from his African roots, the story as told resonated with my Native American background.
As we accompany Dontrell, we meet the members of his family. His cousin Shea who both encourages and caution, disarmingly played by Yvonne Huff with naturalness and ease. Jasmine St.Clair is Danielle, the little sister who makes us laugh with a look and a line and she gets us every time with her effervescence. Charles McCoy is Robby, the best friend who takes us for a ride where we hang onto every word he raps while reminding Dontrell of all the things he's supposed to do. Benai Boyd is Mom-strong laughing, complaining, defending, and accepting. With her I laughed and cried. She was everything we complain about our moms, and made us love her for it. I just wanted to go up and give her a hug afterwards. Marlon Sanders was the Dad- a man of few words-until Dontrell said the unsayable. The audience collectively followed with "Oh-Oh," and what followed was brilliant: Marlon Sanders was strong and scary and funny. Enter Haley McHugh, first as a graceful fish who gazes into Dontrell's eyes, and then as the energetic life guard who hangs on Dontrell's every word and accompanies Dontrell on his odyssey.
The words of Nathan Alan Davis are profound. I wanted to write down the many pearls of wisdom, but there were so many. I finally decided I would have to read the play. The Set Designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz did an incredible job of using the space and creating a set which transformed. The Sound designer, David B. Marling and lighting designer Jeff McLaughlin are to be congratulated on creating an ambiance which moved seamlessly with the story from seashore to aquarium to house to pool to boat to under the sea. The director Gregory Wallace did a masterful job of presenting the story with all its genius: a ballet, a Greek tragedy, a soap opera, a rap, pantomime, ghosts, dreams, swimming pools, Baltimore, storm at sea. (Though he did admit that the air conditioning clicking on during the storm at sea was serendipitous)
Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea is a theatrical experience that transcends all cultures. It is universal in scope, storytelling at its finest. It is simply magic and fun, yet powerful and profound. Don't miss this one. I highly recommend this for all ages.
Presented by the Skylight Theatre Company and Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble
Thru March 29, 2015 http://skylighttheatrecompany.com