Whoa! Talk about being blown away and educated.
“A Strange Loop” is a whirlwind of emotions that is delivered as gut-wrenching humor. Experiencing the Black narrative through a queer Black man’s eyes brought familiarity and eye-opening lessons. Leading actor Usher (Jaquel Spivey) invited us into a story of family, rejection, ridicule, identity, and raw emotions.
“A Strange Loop” brought attention to feeling suffocated in your own existence. As we see the six spheres of personality in Usher’s mind, we are taken through “the loop.” What is this play about? Michael R Jackson, the creator, wrote a play about a gay man writing a play, about a gay man writing a play, about a gay man writing a play.
Yes!!! It was intense but the Black narrative always is. As Usher navigates through life to find his desired goal, life confronts him with doubts, fears, but also a passion to rewrite his own truth. We see him battle family life as his mother rejects his writing. She wants her son to rewrite his truth to the narrative that fits her existence. There’s the alcoholic father that doesn’t understand his son’s sexuality. Just a world labeling him as he drifts further into a dark place.
The lighting production brought the set alive and transported you through each scene. A significant moment on the train, a funeral, or just drama in the living room, the events were all “real.” At some points the stage was as small as a living room and then expanded into levels. There were raw emotions delivered as jokes and ancestors to remind you of how you screwed up. The costume design and speed changing performers were magical.
This Broadway show has it all and reminds you that people will always question you. However, Usher declares “a boy turning his back from everything that made him,” can be the very thing that saves him. The thing is you never leave the loop but you become more confident navigating it.
My personal wish is that this narrative is gifted to more people that it can inspire. Broadway, no matter the context, is always majority white populated. At a point of the show Usher has a conversation with one of the many characters you meet; this character ask him, “have you seen Hamilton?” and Usher responds saying “No I am poor.”
The crowd burst into a laughter that made me uncomfortable. Though the delivery was funny the raw truth remain that this Broadway show is history being performed.
Ms. Antoine is a poet and theater reviewer.