Nobel Prize laureate Wole Soyinka's The Beatification Of Area Boy began performances Oct. 9 at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music's Majestic Theatre in Brooklyn, NY.
Part of BAM's 14th annual "Next Wave Festival," Area Boy is an American premiere of a Nigerian drama, and runs to Oct. 13. The play, being done within BAM's "Works & Process" series, was originally staged at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.
The play with music is set in a luxury shopping center amidst shabby stalls on a dusty street. A critique of the Nigerian military regime, Area Boy follows the fast, dangerous lives of a group of citizens and their survival under the nightmarish dictatorship controlling the nation.
In his review for the Oct. 11 New York Times, Ben Brantley raved about "the stirring, theatrically rich portrait of an unhinged nation... Perhaps the most remarkable accomplishment of this remarkable work...is its ability to keep such a spectrum of emotions in balance... Swinging from elegiac contemplation to ecstatic song and dance, from brisk Brechtian satire to horrified compassion, Area Boy has the air of a carnival staged amid threatening shadows."
Jude Kelly directs a cast including Femi Elufowoju Jr., David Webber, Denise Orita, Janice Acquah, Yomi A. Michaels, Anthony Ofoegbu, Marcia Hewitt, Malcolm Scates, Derek Ezenagu, Juwon Ogungbe, Susie Baxter, Everal A. Walsh, Miriam Keller, Tunji Oyelana, Ombo Gogo Ombo, Makinde Adeniran, Bisi Toluwase and Wale Ogunyemi. Abu Sidique and Folo Graff are the band members. Founded in 1984 by Mary Sharp Cronson, BAM's "Works In Progress" series offers audiences a chance to preview new works in performance before their formal New York City premieres. Soynika took part in a Critical Issues Forum at BAM in mid-September.
Soyinka's other plays include The Invention (1959), Madmen And Specialists (1970), and Death And The King's Horseman (1975), perhaps his best known work. After studying in London, where his Invention was produced by the Royal Court in 1959, Soyinka returned to Ibadan, Nigeria in 1960. In 1967, he was arrested for supporting Biafra and held as a political prisoner for two years. On his release, he became director of the Drama School at the University of Ibadan. An international traveler now living in exile, Wole Soyinka, whose real name is Arkinwande Oluwole, won the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature.
-- By David Lefkowitz