Based on true events, a very engaging new one act play, Pirira, by J. Stephen Brantley, explores how lives can be linked despite a clash of cultures. Brantley has written two stories taking place simultaneously 7000 miles apart, weaving dialogue in and out to keep the separate characters connected.
Gilbert (Adrian Baidoo) is from Africa, but has won a scholarship to college in New York where he holds a part time job with a florist. His co-worker is Chad (Todd Flaherty), a very pronounced gay man who has fun asking teasing questions about Gilbert’s homeland. The discussion escalates to dramatic intensity when Chad challenges Gilbert’s homophobia.
In Africa, the very white Jack has moved to the continent to help the disadvantaged children. With tumult erupting, Jack pulls Ericka (Flor De Liz Perez) into a storage room for safety. Stuck in small quarters for a while, the two talk through the reasons they both came to Africa for humanitarian work. While working through misperceptions of one another, they find as many similarities and a spark of romance.
The discussions, arguments and moments of tenderness between these characters raises questions about a turbulent world, the friction between cultures, how minds in opposition might find common ground and most of all, the play underlines the fact that the AIDS crisis must not be swept aside. This particular health issue emerges as the main talking point through Brantley’s carefully calibrated scenes and although there are no answers, the worth of his message is a call to arms: talk, argue, educate.
Ari Laura Kreith has directed a tight 70 minute production with equal weight devoted to the humor and the serious (and a little bit of music) to make a sometimes splintered script stay balanced. The actors are individually excellent and work together as a unified whole. For the limits of a black box space, Brendan Flaherty has designed a rather detailed set that works for both scenes and allows for a great variety in movement and levels.
Produced by Theatre 167, a Queens based company, the play continues through Sunday, November 10: Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8p.m.; Sundays at 3p.m. Tickets are $18 and are available online at www.theatre167.org or via the Chain Theatre at (646) 580- 6003. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theater 1⁄2 hour prior to performance.
The Chain Theater is located at 21-28 45 RD Long Island City, NY 11101 Subway: 7, E, G, and M to Court Square Station.