Quote of the Day: In this play, we witness a confluence of identities and hear a variety of stories, but the message that moves me most is that skin doesn’t forget. From the Director H. Adam Harris, notes in the program for Redwood, written by Brittany K. Allen, playing through March 13, 2022, at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, MN. 

China Brickey and Kevin Fanshaw in Redwoods at The Jungle Theater. Photo: Lauren B. Photography

Two years ago, Sarah Bahr created a gorgeous set for the Jungle Theater’s production of Redwood. It has movable parts that pop out for easy change in settings, from a fitness studio to a kitchen, coffee shop and an apartment. They had two preview performances, then the great pause happened, and the set sat dormant. In the meantime, the pandemic enveloped us like a dense smog, and the murder of George Floyd sent the city and nation into an explosive rage. We’re venturing out again with trepidation and a deep longing for community. Playwright Brittany K. Allen gives us a view of what community is, with all its painful and complex history, and the imperfect humans who live out their stories. 

Kevin Fanshaw and Bruce A. Young in Redwoods at the Jungle Theater. Photo: Lauren B. Photography

Meg (China Brickey) and Drew (Kevin Fanshaw) are in a relationship. They’ve recently moved in together, although Meg is reluctant to tell her mother Beverly (Thomasina Petrus). They’re happy and loving and supportive. Meg is set to go the the state senate to talk about current needs in education. Although Beverly has met Drew, she doesn’t know him very well, and he hasn’t met any extended family. Beverly’s twin brother Stevie (Bruce A. Young) has been digging into family genealogy, using the DNA sites like Ancestry.com. He reaches out to Drew and reveals to him that Drew’s great-great-great grandfather owned slaves who were Stevie’s ancestors, and their DNA links them to this slave owner. Everyone reacts to this news, and they all have difficult conversations around this shared and painful past. 

Dwight Leslie, Morhen Chang, Bruce A. Young, Max Wojtanowicz, Dana Lee Thompson in Redwoods at the Jungle Theater. Photo: Lauren B. Photography

Interspersed with intimate scenes between characters are flashes to light-hearted scenes of community members at a fitness club, doing hip-hop dance, prenatal yoga, and other fun interactions. They also flash back to scenes of their ancestors on the plantation, the ugliness of slavery, attempts to escape, and babies born from rape. The supporting cast, Dwight Xaveir Leslie, Morgen Chang, Dana Lee Thompson, and Max Wojtanowicz all play multiple characters in these scenes. Dana Lee Thompson’s portrayal of Alameda, the slave mother who is Meg, Beverly and Stevie’s great-great-great grandmother, is powerful and stunning. 

Dana Lee Thompson, China Brickey, Thomasina Petrus. Photo: Lauren B. Photography

The script by Brittany K. Allen is brilliant. She uses intimate relationships between the characters and their family members to shine light on a collective history. She brings in humor, characters you love, and a storyline that grips you from the start. Lighting Design by Karin Olson enhances the experience, creating atmosphere and focus on the story, characters, and emotions. Sound Design by Dan Dukich, the addition of music and movement, choregraphed by Austene Van make this one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Everything about this production pulls you in and captivates your attention and emotions for the full two plus hours. Director H. Adam Harris brings all of this together in a powerful production, one that I wish everyone could see and start discussing. 

You can see Redwood at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, MN through March 13, 2022. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Write about your family history.