REVIEW: Brownsville Song (B Side for Tray)

Kimber Lee’s BROWNSVILLE SONG (B Side for Tray) is precisely the type of show Ensemble Theatre and director Lynn Meyers is drawn to.  It’s contemporary, topical, and tells a very human story.  There’s a lot of things to like about it and it is the kind of play we need more of.

Starring Kameron Richardson as “Tray,” Deborah Brock-Blanks as his grandmother “Lena,” eight-year-old Ari Elizabeth Johnson as his little sister “Devine,” Lissa Urriquia Gapultos as “Merrell,” and Chauncey Ragland as “Junior,” this show tells Tray’s story.  He’s a young black man, with tons of potential.  But he becomes a statistic.

As Meyers said in her curtain speech, we need more stories and less statistics.  Her passion for this type of theatre-piece is evident.

If you are interested in shows with social commentary, family drama, and contemporary dialogue, Lee’s script provides plenty of it.  Sam Womelsdorf’s video projections accentuate the story, while the sound design by Matt Callahan has an urban and modern flair.  Darnell Benjamin’s choreography provides the shows best moments and there were a couple of nice scenes between Richardson and Brock-Blanks.

Unfortunately, much of the dialogue is stilted and unnatural.  There seems to be a problem with the rhythm of the language, making it impossible for me to get lost in the story.  Perhaps it was an off night.  Still, many of the folks seated around me gave the show a standing ovation.  So, consider this one man’s opinion.

So go see it for yourself and support socially-relevant plays like BROWNSVILLE SONG.  We need more scripts in this vein and we need more theaters to produce them.  And I definitely want audiences to go see them.

BROWNSVILLE SONG (B SIDE FOR TRAY) runs through October 30th at Ensemble Theatre in Over the Rhine.  Tickets and more information can be found here.