nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
March 8, 2007
Born Ready is a promising new play from the Toronto-based Obsidian Theater Company. It speaks to us in a familiar urban vernacular, but elevates the proceedings through using poetic dialogue, well-thought out dramatic metaphors, and solid acting and direction to provide a universality that anyone can relate to.
Written by Joseph Jomo Pierre, and directed by Obsidian's artistic director Philip Akin, Born Ready begins with a presentational/Spoon River Anthology vibe, with two characters—identified in the program only as Black Man (Pierre) and B-side (Mike G-yohannes)—on either sides of the stage, and Gun/Peggy Sue (Cara Ricketts) sultrily describing her place in a poverty-stricken urban world. It's a risky choice that pays off well to personify a weapon as a seductress, because as the piece progresses it becomes clear that Gun/Peggy Sue becomes as much of a partner, if not more so, than a girlfriend/lover would be in the world of the play.
She positions herself between Black Man and B-side, who begin to tell their tales of growing up in the projects. Black Man's struggles began with having his father shot in the patch of grass between two buildings in his complex, and being raised somewhat by his older female cousin, whom he shared a bed with out of necessity. B-side describes sustaining his diet on cereal with water and occasionally "juice," which is water with fruit in it. The storytelling on both counts is vivid and stark, and deepens when each character reaches adolescence via sexual experience (Black Man) and marijuana use (B-side). Gun/Peggy Sue speaks about being born of no man or woman (which would probably be more mysterious if the program hadn't referred to her as Gun). Things take a turn when B-side, running upstairs in his building to avoid getting caught smoking weed, discovers Gun/Peggy Sue. He gradually comes to realize that as a "couple" they are powerful and can command food, respect, women, and money.
The fascinating choice to personify a weapon and its seductive powers works beautifully in this piece, as B-side realizes that he has no desire to kill anyone he dismisses Gun/Peggy Sue. He's like an addict trying to kick his power addiction, and sure enough he winds up carrying another piece of chrome before too long. Meanwhile, Black Man has picked up Gun/Peggy Sue and finally the two stories intertwine fully for a confrontation that is the only satisfying conclusion the story could take.
From a technical perspective, the sound effects really missed the mark completely but are the only detriments that warrant a mention. Ricketts gives a seductive turn as Gun/Peggy Sue, Pierre has a captivating speaking voice, and G-yohannes's moments of vulnerability with his character provide depth to the piece. Solid direction by Akin rounds out a nice work of theater.