Perhaps it wasn't a good idea to see BROWNSVILLE SONG a few hours after seeing FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS. Playwright Kimber Lee doesn't seem quite sure what story she is trying to tell in BROWNSVILLE SONG. The result seems formless, listless and much longer than its 90 minutes.
On one hand, this is a lament for Trey (Sheldon Best), an eighteen-year-old boy who is shot for no reason by a young gangbanger looking for more status. We only hear about the death in a rather clunky piece of exposition, so really don't feel much about it. Trey is obviously a good kid, but the playwright doesn't make us feel much for his loss. She seems more interested in the women in his life. The tough grandmother who raised him, the kid sister he adores and the mother who abandoned him and his sister and his now trying to get her life back together (it's not clear how Trey could have an Asian mother). Trey tries to get over his anger and help his mother, reversing the parent-child role. I wish I could say that the play made me feel anything, but it seemed a collection of scenes with no narrative momentum. The play moves back and forth in time, which would be fine if there seemed any clear reason for the arrangement of scenes.
Director Patricia McGregor has done what she could with the play. Sheldon Best, who was so good in THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER last season, gives another dynamic performance. Lizan Mitchell brings real substance to the role of the feisty grandmother who is beginning to feel her age. Sun Mee Chomet is bland in the blandly written role of the mother who is trying to reform.
Blah. If only the play were as dynamic as the pre-show music.
BROWNSVILLE SONG (B SIDE FOR TREY). Lincoln Center Theater at the Claire Tow. November 8, 2014.