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Review: ‘Scraps’ Explores the Pain of Survival

Scraps

By Jil Picariello, Theater Editor, September 11, 2018

It’s a story we’ve heard so often that we have to fight complacency: a young man is shot and killed by police, for doing nothing more than being black. Which is why a visit to the Flea Theater to see Scraps, a new play by Geraldine Inoa, is in order. Scraps takes a look at that sadly familiar tale from a different point a view: what happens to the people left behind.

In Bedford-Stuyvesant, Forest, a promising young athlete on a football scholarship to college, runs out to buy diapers for his son in the middle of the night and is killed by a police offer. Now it’s three months later and we can see what it has done to the people Forest left behind.

His girlfriend Aisha (Alana Raquel Bowers) is angry, sad, desperate. His death has left her to raise their son alone, but it’s also been the death of her dreams for the future. His five-year-old son can’t stop wetting the bed. His friend Jean-Baptiste (Roland Lane) is warming the stoop, getting high and spinning dreams of becoming a famous rapper. Aisha’s sister Adriana (Tanyamaria), a student at NYU, is traumatized; she has already attempted suicide, and more trauma awaits. And his friend Calvin (Michael Oloyede), a student at Columbia, is doing his best to pretend nothing is wrong. He’s just returned from a summer in London, in a somewhat-fly, somewhat-ridiculous suit and vest.

Jean-Baptiste raps the prologue for the play and it’s the just right stage-setter: gripping, smart, heart-racingly intense. Emotions storm and collide, the characters rage and ridicule, and some of them speak so quickly (Ms. Bowers, I’mtalkingtoyou) that I wanted to jump up and yell, “Wait, slow down.” This is a ninety-minute play, but I’m betting the script has all the pages of a three-hour drama.

There are a few bumps in the road. Mr. Oloyede, who plays Calvin, starts out stilted. His lines don’t fit him nearly as well as his handsome suit. Mr. Lane’s Jean-Baptiste is playing it way too stoned to sound that smart. How come it’s only on stage that people don’t get stupid when they get high?

In the second half of the play, the action and tone take a dramatic shift, jumping three years into the future and directly into the horrific nightmares of the heretofore unseen child of Aisha and the late Forest, Sebastian (Bryn Carter). He is now eight years old and his fantasies are dark indeed. It’s a daring leap in style and subject, but it works, thanks to the smart script by Geraldine Inoa and tight direction by Niegel Smith, as well as the chilling performances from one and all. It’s a dark world indeed, and we had best not get inured to it.

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Scraps at the Flea Theater, 20 Thomas Street, running through September 29, 2018. Written by Geraldine Inoa. Directed by Niegel Smith; set design by Ao Li; costume design by Andy Jean; lighting design by Kate McGee; sound design by Megan Deets Culley; violence choreography by Michael G. Chin.

Cast: (members of The Bats acting company) Andrew Baldwin, Alana Raquel Bowers, Bryn Carter, Roland Lane, Michael Oloyede, and Tanyamaria.

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