Bww review welcome to fear city at kcrep at the copaken stage arkansas gas tax


Kara Lee Corthron’s riveting new play "Welcome to Fear City" ushers in the heat of hip-hop with a powerfully well written story. The South Bronx struggles to survive blackouts, heat waves, fires, and raging fiscal crisis during the summer of 1977. "E", a young African-American male finds himself suddenly unemployed and his dreams for the future look more uncertain than ever. While living with his mother Wanda his sister Neesy surprises them by moving back in after not making it in California. E dreams of making something of his poetry and a chance at the mic at the neighborhood house party with his buddy Cheky. However, an unlikely conversation with an unscrupulous stranger entices E into a perilous situation that could bring him instant cash, but at a high risk. As E struggles with what to do his personal secrets begin to unravel, especially when the handsome Jacques arrives on the scene stirring things up.

Welcome to Fear City, directed by Chip Miller, is part of KCRep’s Origin KC: New Works Festival 2017-2018. WFC is about a community striving to remain intact in the midst of crime, poverty, social conflict, and a newly developing art form rising from the cacophony of electrifying voices. Christopher Reed Brown (as "E") is impressive as he shifts from meek store keep to budding poet and then to troubled arson. Brown builds the disaffection E has with life to an explosive climax that highlights the positive things that come from discontent. Nedra Dixon (as mother Wanda) has "been there" and pushes her children to become something. Dixon captures the spirited maternal essence while never losing her groove on the dance floor, in spite of some convincing coughing (from her character’s lung problem). Brianna Woods (as Neesy) beams as the smart daughter who has returned home defeated and frequently inebriated. Woods projects the dejection anyone who has ever felt they didn’t live up to their potential with convincing honesty. Brandon J Pierce (as Cheky) is fun to watch as he livens up the stage with big personality. Pierce gives Cheky a Renaissance man hip-hop vibe that is filled with sensual vitality. Jamal James (as Jaques/Benji +) is a commanding presence yet remains conscientious in how he plays each role. Not yielding to stereotypes can be difficult, but Mr. James proficiently avoids this trap making the story more believable. Finally, Walter Coppage (as Rat) brings cunning conscience to a role that introduces an element of fantasy in the whole process. Having seen Mr. Coppage in a variety of productions over the years, it was delightful to see him dispatch wise life messages as a rascally rodent.

The strength of "Fear City" is it’s ability to creatively bound from poetic prose, to poignant dialogue, to the imaginative use of visuals ( John Narun, Projection Design & Jeffrey Cady Projection Programming) and lighting (Michelle Harvey). Brittany Vasta (Scenic Design) captured the feel of the hot summer tenement while Jessica Paz (Sound Design) was able to integrate the sound to the point it was difficult to distinguish what was live and what was recorded. Also included in the production team were LA Clevenson (Costume Design), Gary Abbot (Movement Coach), and Kelsey Brennan York (Production Stage Manager)