New York City Theater
"A View From 151st Street"
LuEsther Hall at the Public Theater
Forget sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Now it’s violence, drugs and rap, at least as seen and felt in Bob Glaudini’s “A View From 151st Street.” Though it eventually thins out, the LAByrinth Theater production is a bristling work about life on the mean streets. Pitting petty criminals against achieving cops and teachers, Glaudini’s drama, like his “Jack Goes Boating” from last season, deals with people on the edge.
Delroy is a would-be rapper who dreams of a recording career while dealing drugs with sidekick friend Dwight. On the other side of the divide are Daniel, an undercover detective, his supportive wife Lena and her sister Irene. Bridging the gap are straight-arrow policeman Monroe, crackhead Ray and Russian nurse Mara. The figures cohere when Daniel is seriously wounded in a drug bust. Army buddy Ray, whom Daniel is sheltering while he kicks the habit, is torn between the two worlds, his eventual fate a metaphoric divide between hope and failure.
Helped by David Korins’ economical yet foreboding set design with its literal wall separating apartment and street plus the delineations of Japhy Weideman’s lights and Mimi O’Donnell’s costumes, Glaudini juxtaposes the productive haves from the defeated have-nots. Both worlds are at war with each other and among themselves mirroring, Glaudini suggests, civil conflicts in the Balkans and Iraq. But the playwright only glances at wider implications, making the final line – “Don’t give up, no matter what” – seem more trite than it need be.
Under Peter DuBois’ driving direction, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Liza Colón-Zayas, Juan Carlos Hernandez, Russell G. Jones, Marisa Malone, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Andre Royo and, especially, Craig “muMs” Grant as the crazed Delroy unerringly draw us into their characters’ rarefied lives. Musicians Andrew Eme, Nir Felder, and Q’s jazz riffs echo the evening’s precipitateness.
-- David A. Rosenberg
Oct. 18, 2007