On Tuesday night, actors Kerry Warren, Jackie Chung, and Jeremy Kahn sat in the atrium of the Wilson branch of the New Haven Free Public Library on Washington Avenue, talking about a kid who scared them.
It wasn’t just the menace in his creative writing. It wasn’t that he wasn’t doing well in his classes either. It was that they couldn’t connect to him. They were worried the student might shoot them. Kahn was worried that he might be first.
Two men, Tommy and Petesy, stand on a stage. They’re side by side, but an ocean apart. Tommy’s a boxer in New Haven who’s taken a couple punches. Petesy is a tall man whose life in Belfast, Northern Ireland has made him smaller. They’re cousins who grew up seeing each other now and again. But they’re writing each other now because they’ve both lost a son to violence, and neither of them knows exactly how to go on.
I went to see Death of Yazdgerd at the Yale School of Drama in the same way I’ve gone to see all other artistic productions by Iranian expats in the last thirty years – for support, not inspiration. For us, exiles, going to such events is a form of community service. More than anything else, we go to allay the pangs of nostalgia, not to experience art.
So imagine my surprise when, after nearly two hours, I walked out of the theatre positively energized and perfectly inspired. Rather than engage in some form of charitable act, I had seen a genuine work of beauty.
Jerod Haynes lost some of his friends to the streets of Chicago. He reflected on that when reprising the lead role of Bigger in a revival of Richard Wright’s Native Son, which is currently playing — and sparking raw conversation and reflection — at Yale Repertory Theatre.
Just minutes into Yale Repertory Theatre’s kinetic production of Native Son — adapted by Nambi E. Kelley from the novel by Richard Wright — a woman has been smothered in her bed and a man is on the run. And he never stops running.
Shadi Ghaheri, a third-year director at the Yale School of Drama, once told me she doesn’t like to direct “new plays.” I reminded her of that comment when talking to her about her thesis project, Death of Yazdgerd, by Bahram Beyzai, which runs Dec. 5-9 at the Iseman Theater on Chapel Street. The play dates from 1979, so could be called “new” compared to a classic. Beyzai’s play, Ghaheri pointed out, “is a masterpiece and is the equivalent, at least in its themes, of something like King Lear.” So, while the play is relatively new, the story is very old.
The room in Erector Square on Peck Street that houses Collective Consciousness Theater seats 60 at the most, and that’s pushing the limit. Its small size means that during a show audience members — sitting on folding chairs, with the front row just a few feet from the stage — are incredibly close to the actors. And each other.
Actor George Guidall had grown up receiving his Jewish education from a melamed. He had deeply religious family members. So he knew a lot about the background of the rabbi he plays in Long Wharf Theatre’s upcoming production of The Chosen, which runs Nov. 22 to Dec. 17.
But he also found himself in tension with that character — and possibly, in doing so, practicing his culture and his faith.