Entertainment » Theatre

Black Odyssey

by Will Demers
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jan 11, 2019
A production still from "Black Odyssey," at the Trinity Repertory Company through February 3.
A production still from "Black Odyssey," at the Trinity Repertory Company through February 3.   

One of the world's oldest works of literature gets an update in "Black Odyssey." A father, Ulysses Lincoln (Joe Wilson, Jr.) a Gulf War veteran is lost at sea trying to find his way home to his wife Nella (Kalyne Coleman) and son Malachi (Kai Tshikosi) who have given up hope that he may ever return. But Ulysses' journey home is riddled with roadblocks, placed in front of him literally and figuratively by the gods.

Divine brothers Deus (Jude Sandy) and Paw Sidin (Omar Robinson) make a bet. Deus wants the veteran to be reunited with his family, and Paw Sidin wants him out of the way so that he may court Nella, and in doing so he'll win the wager. Aunt Tina (Julia Lema) a goddess, who takes human form to help the lost man and his family, does her best to influence the humans to make the "correct" choices. Homer's work never looked so colorful or fabulous.

Trinity's "Odyssey" isn't just an update, it's an allegory for human relationships, family legacy, hope, and dreams of better lives, free from modern prejudice. Woven into the story is a snapshot of historical moments, skillfully included by playwright Marcus Gardley, inspired by Homer's legendary poem, taking the misfortunes of one man and turning it into a journey of epic proportions. As we follow our protagonist through a flood and his eventual escape from the evil machinations of Paw Sidin, the revelations are surprisingly down to earth. Trinity does this incredibly well.

Sandy and Wilson, Jr. are co-directors and longtime company members leading an amazingly strong cast. Joining them are Jackie Davis, Anwar Ali, and Cloteal L. Horne. Davis has a knack for comedy, and she shines as Benevolence, daughter of Artez and Alsendra played by Ali and Horne, respectively. The couple is stranded by a flood on their roof and find Ulysses floating on a raft. As the waters rise, it is Benevelonce who joins him to be saved. Ali puts the grand is his Grand Marshall and Horne steals just about every scene. But Lema is the one to watch as Great aunt Tina; she dispenses advice with sass and a gleam in her eye.

Costumes aren't to be dismissed, either as this production shines with colorful designs and some retro business, just check out Super Fly Tiresias (Sandy at his snazziest.) The show is peppered with some inspired musical references, giving the journey a beat, as well. The heart of the show is undeniably Wilson's performance as the lost Lincoln; his pain and disappointment are plain to see and Coleman will break your heart as his feisty wife. Tshikosi delivers a strong and heartfelt Malachi, and the production shows its colorful roots with the skillful handling of the human element. If you see one show this year, let it be "Black Odyssey." Because you'll see yourself in its characters, your life in its journey, and your family in its message.

"Black Odyssey" is running through February 3rd at Trinity Repertory Company 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI 02903. For information or tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit www.trinityrep.com/odyssey.

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