nytheatre.com review by Amy Lee Pearsall
October 14, 2012
If you enjoy solo-performance, be certain to check out the third annual United Solo Theatre Festival. Running at Theatre Row on 42nd Street through November 18th, this year’s United Solo features 100 short theatrical productions from around the world, the majority of which will only run once. Take a chance, pick a day, and take in some of the rich and varied offerings this delightful festival has to offer.
What does it mean to be a young black man trying to chart his own course in spite of continuing racism, classism, and the influence and prevailing stereotypes found in Hip Hop culture? In Growing Pains, an 80-minute meditation on the subject via spoken-word, monologues and movement by gifted poet, playwright and performer Nathan James, the answer does not come easy, but the process through which he examines it is enthralling.
As directed by Steve Broadnax, James morphs from slam-poet to monologue character, sometimes on the turn of a single word. There are entire passages of meticulous choreography – a segment performed to Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” comes to mind – where James fights off unseen assailants onstage. James occasionally utilizes bits of costume to call forth characters, but his words and physicality as an actor are what truly set the stage, regardless of whether he is a playing a young father, a rapper, or an addict.
An accomplished wordsmith, James’ work is as funny in one place as it is poignant in another. His is a world that he wants to share, and he presents it with equal amounts of love, pain, and unflinching honesty. Growing Pains is only performing once at the United Solo Theatre Festival this year, but keep your eyes open, both for Nathan James and for what he does next.