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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
AND I AND SILENCE
at Pershing Square Signature Center

HAVE-NOTS
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Trae Harris and Emily Skeggs/ Ph: Matthew Murphy

So incantatory are the rhythms of Naomi Wallace’s dialogue in And I and Silence that it’s easy to be swept up in the stark simplicity of the story she’s telling. The setting is a grim, all-but-bare room in an unnamed city, where two recently released young convicts – one black (Rachel Nicks), one white (Samantha Soule) – have set up housekeeping. Their dream: to support themselves as cleaning women, while honoring their shared pledge to draw an inviolable “line” when it comes to fulfilling the noncustodial duties that their hirers invariably demand.

As we watch them prepare for work and rehearse possible scenarios, while dreaming of the pastoral reward they hope someday to achieve (shades of Of Mice and Men, with a mildly sadistic dash of The Maids), flashbacks introduce the two as young girls (Trae Harris and Emily Skeggs) at the rocky outset of an improbable friendship. The play is set in the 1950s, when interracial friendship was rare, marriage rarer still.

But what the two young women have is unquestionably a sort of marriage. Sharing what little resources they have (one has formative memories of a mother who was a maid), they’re determined to support each other come what may. Should one of them happen to fall in love, they only half-joke, the fiancé had better have a brother.

It’s a rare experience to see such caring and tenderness depicted on stage. All four actors are brilliant at managing vertiginous, true-to-life shifts in mood – from resentment to rapprochement and back again. Even so, there is little to prepare one for the impact of tragedy on a classical scale, and when it comes, it’s devastating.

The entire team, including director Caitlin McLeod and especially the author, has done beautiful work here, and the canon of woman-centric drama is the richer.

 


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