Push Party –- TheaterLab

Nedra Snipes, Breezy Leigh, Brittany Davis, Claudia Logan, Clarissa Vickerie and Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew in Push Party at TheaterLab. Photo by Travis Emery Hackett.

Push Party is the story of five black women who have gathered to celebrate one of them giving birth. Set in a community room of a Harlem apartment building, the piece is not for the faint of heart. In the lobby, there is a sign that warns the audience about the content, which includes: drugs, sexual assault- a miscarriage. fibroids, violence, graphic references, STIs and Interracial relationships.

While it may sound like heavy going, the show flies by thanks to witty writing, a great set and a cast that performs as a true ensemble. It is not a laugh fest, but it raises these issues without making the audience want to find something to take their minds off the production.

Lelo (played by Breezy High) has spent $400 renting the community room and purchasing refreshments for her friend Lovely who has given birth pre-maturely and whose child is still in the NICU. They are joined by Wendy (Nedra Snipes), Shadea (Claudia Logan) and Princess (Clarissa Vickerie). Wendy lives in Brooklyn, in an apartment paid for by city vouchers and who makes vegetarian meals for the homeless up in Harlem. Shadea who recently turned 30. Princess is married to a white man, and has issues with some of his family.

As the party gets underway, the women talk about each other and their lives as the audience gets to know them. What impressed me was the way in which playwright Nia Akilah Robinson does this in a way that actually sounds like people talking. Few playwrights can do this; most are worried about driving the story forward and usually choose straight lines for that in their dialogues. Ms. Robinson, in places, captures the actual speaking patterns of real humans beings. Other examples of this include David Mamet and August Wilson.

When a homeless woman turns up outside their party room, in some distress, the five try to help. Lelo is worried about not being charged more for the clean up, and Shadea is insistent that they do everything they can. Eventually, we learn that the woman, Harlem (Brittany Davis) is actually the sister of Lelo who was separated from her years ago. At first blush, that struck me as a bit too convenient. Yet Ms. Robinson may be making a point here that must be considered. Harlem is not just Lelo’s sister but everyone’s sister – at least in moral terms.

After Harlem has cleaned up, she sort of joins the party, or perhaps, the party joins her. She sits on the floor with her sister next to her, and she asks each woman to tell her story of giving birth. The scene is one of comfort and hope amid despair. Director Chesray Dolpha marshalls her resources here to great effect. It would be easy for this scene to come off as cheesy or insincere, but in her hands, it is moving.

Given the subject matter, this play is not going to open on Broadway to amuse tourists. But it is a wonderful piece of theatre, well-executed. And any script that gives six black women roles has to be welcome as a missing piece from the puzzle.

Running Time: 100 minutes without intermission.

Push Party runs through June 23, 2024 at TheaterLab, located at 357 West 38th Street in New York City. For tickets and more information, visit Theater Lab’s website

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