3/26/2022 THE LIGHT Horizon Theatre
SHE SAID, HE SAID, TOO MUCH UNSAID
Genesis and Rashad are deeply, profoundly in love. They are more than ready to make their union permanent. But as they celebrate the anniversary of their first date, a secret from Genesis’ past claws to the surface, gnaws at their joy and exposes too many unconscious attitudes and prejudices. Will love win out, with the argument shining an exposing light on what needs fixing? Or is the damage beyond repair?
Such is the premise of Loy A. Webb’s terrific new play, The Light, getting its long-delayed area premier at Horizon Theatre. (It’s been in rehearsal for two years, originally scheduled for March of 2020 but sidelined by the pandemic.) Ms. Webb is a playwright, screenwriter, and attorney, and her tight script is filled with intelligence, with humor, with passion, and with questions that perhaps have no “correct” answers, hurts that have no possible anodyne, unconscious attitudes that NEED to be acknowledged and (if it’s not too strong a word) corrected.
Sparked by the rape trial of film director Nate Parker and buttressed by the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, The Light is an examination of sexual assault, about the (too often) dehumanization of women of color (especially when they accuse others of assault), and about the (too common) tendency of men to dismiss (even overlook) assault allegations against public figures, unless they have a personal connection. Genesis describes to Rashad the assault of a “friend” by the headliner of a concert he wants to see, that she refuses to see. Even though many years have passed since the “alleged” assault, it is still raw in her mind, in her memory (her support of a co-worker supporting Brett Kavanaugh notwithstanding).
Of course, she cannot understand his “It’s only a concert” reaction. “What if it were your daughter?” “What if it were me?” And therein lies the spark that takes these two on a roller-coaster emotional journey that leaves them (and us) breathless.
And, because the situation is so common, the reaction so widespread, the lack of accountability so pervasive, how can there be a resolution that satisfies? That there are no clear “right” answers is the real problem, especially if no one is trying to shine a light on the unconscious attitudes that make this such a divisive issue.
If I make this sound like a dry polemical diatribe, it is not. Both characters are fully fleshed-out individuals, given vivid life by actors Cynthia D. Barker and Enoch King. For the first half of the (intermission-less 75-minute) play, we see them at their best, at their most romantic, joking and cuddling and sparring and enjoying each other’s company. When the darkness comes, it is compelling BECAUSE we have grown to love them as a couple, These are two actors at their best, actors we have seen (and praised) often before, and they create two very complex and likeable people who can make questionable choices, who can mis-read each other in ways they never expect. Who can argue passionately, hurt deeply, and struggle to make painful concessions to each other.
They seem at ease, at home, on a beautifully detailed set by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay (perfectly lit by Mary Parker), And yet, how easily they turn it into a battlefield! How painfully they wield (and suffer) slings and arrows and micro-aggressions! How truthfully every wild swing of emotion lands and then curdles.
And it is frankly difficult to write about this show without spoiling the many twists of plot, without acknowledging the times we ourselves have been skeptical of an assault allegation because it involved a public figure we respect, without a sense of guilt at NOT boycotting the latest artist with feet of clay because we love the work so much, without shuddering at the times we’ve seen accusers we’ve believed vilified and attacked.
But it is important to consider every part of this play, every aspect it raises, every moment (from both characters) that strike chords of recognition, that lights parts of ourselves we always we would prefer to keep in darkness.
The Light is a very powerful, very compelling play that starts a conversation we should be having. It is an emotional maelstrom fueled by the bravura talents of two remarkable actors. And I will not soon be free of its glow.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com @bk_rudy #htcTheLight)