Thursday, August 4, 2016

Review of Definition Theatre and The New Colony's Byhalia, Mississippi

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Byhalia, Mississippi. It was by Evan Linder and it was directed by Tyrone Phillips. It was about a married couple, Jim (Linder) and Laurel (Liz Sharpe) who were going to have a baby. But then, when Jim finds out that he is not the father, he is of course not very happy about that. I felt like this was a very very moving story about racism, family, love, and forgiveness. I really loved this show and felt like they dug deeply into the issues of the play.

They didn't just say, "racism is a bad thing," they actually showed complicated situations. Like one of the situations is that one of the characters, Karl (Jeffery Owen Freelon, Jr) thinks his best friend is a racist but he still loves him even though he is mad at him for that and he has to just give himself a clean break and not say "I hate you and never talk to me again" but just "I'll get back to you when I feel like I can talk to you again." Another complicated situation in the show is with Celeste (Cecelia Wingate), the mother of Laurel. There are a few moments where you can't specifically call her a racist, but you feel like she is, like when she calls the baby a thing, which makes him seem like something that is not human. But you don't know if it is racist because we don't know if in other situations where she knew her daughter had been cheating on her husband she would still blame it on the kid. She also doesn't feel like the crib is safe that Karl makes, but we don't ever see the crib so we don't know if she is just saying that because it was built by an African-American man. They don't make it easy to say, "This woman is racist and I hate her." She seems to be racist, but she also loves her daughter and seems to have suffered through a lot with her husband. The play says racism is a bad thing, but you can have sympathy for and love for people who are racist and sometimes it is hard to prove to someone that they are being racist.

They also showed you what it is like to be the person whose heart is broken and the person who broke the heart, and that both of them don't feel good about themselves. The thing is that Jim and Laurel have both done equally terrible things, but Jim makes a point of saying that what she did was worse because she got pregnant. That isn't fair because they did the same thing, they just didn't turn out the exact same way. I still feel like both of what they did was not justified, but one thing wasn't worse than the other. I feel like they should both forgive each other, because it is clear that they both love each other so much even after so much heartbreak. The ending clarifies their decision, but doesn't make it seem like none of it ever happened. I think it is more realistic. Forgiveness is saying we can try this again, but you still did what you did and it hurt me, and it can't just never have happened. Ayesha (Kiki Lane) has a different way of dealing with her husband cheating. She says, "You have proven yourself to not be responsible enough to make decisions, so I'm taking charge." I think she does not forgive him, but continues because of her children. I think that is very sweet but at the same time very sad because she obviously doesn't want to be with him anymore.

I noticed the word plan was used a lot about humans in this show. Jim and Laurel both say that they are each others' plan still. And Laurel says it about the baby. I feel like plan is the right word because it is not certain. People are not reliable; they do the wrong thing sometimes. But you still rely on them. The word plan is saying this is what I want to do. So when you call a person your plan you are saying this is the person I want to spend my time on. Plan doesn't only mean human. It can also mean an actual literal plan like Laurel's plan to say the only rule in her house was be kind and be truthful. I think that her mother has completely messed her up, and she doesn't want to do that to her own kid. Her mother pretended that she never knew her husband was cheating, which means she was lying to herself and to everyone. The plan shows you that Laurel has come out from her mistake changed. The next generation may be more truthful, less racist, and more forgiving because of the mistakes that have been made.

People who would like this show are people who like plans, moving shows, and forgiveness. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was a beautiful and heartbreaking story and I'm glad that I got to see it.

Photos: Evan Hanover

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