By Suzi Brozman
The current show on the Hertz Stage at the Alliance Theatre is Tsehaye Geralyn Hebert’s “The C.A. Lyons Project,” the 2015 winner of the prestigious Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition.
As devotees of the Hertz know, this series highlights up-and-coming talents you are likely to see again and again in the future. “Lyons” is no exception. Artistic director Susan Booth and director Kent Gash have worked magic to weave a disparate handful of stories into a cohesive whole for ages 16 and older.
If you love dance, you won’t want to miss this evening of theater, music and movement. I won’t even try to unravel the plots. They’re there and important, focusing on AIDS, gender, race relations, abuse, deafness and much more, but it’s the dance that holds and mesmerizes you. There’s jazz, African, ballet, ballroom, experimental, and even touches of Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey.
Every character is strongly portrayed, some even heartbreakingly true to life. The one I couldn’t take my eyes off was Danielle Deadwyler’s tattooed Chaos Unit, aka Christine Cross, a young dancer so angry yet so expressive that I just wanted to hug her and tell her everything was going to be OK.
Francesca Harper’s Amandla Sister Afrikia danced like a swan and acted her heart out, full of anger, regret and hope. Playing her mother, Donna Kent reminded me of Coretta Scott King — until she opened her mouth and exposed herself as, well, I’ll let you judge. James Brown III, playing the title role, danced with enough passion to tear your heart out and leave you breathless and not just from knowing he was harboring more than one guilty secret.
As with many young playwrights, Hebert tries to handle more plot lines and situations than can comfortably be explored and wrapped up in one evening, but I could write for volumes on the ethical problems she poses and the ways they are treated. This is a show you have to experience for yourself; you have until March 8.
Purchase tickets at the box office, through 404-733-5000 or at alliancetheatre.org.