FAIRVIEW is a three-act play delivered uninterrupted in just under two hours. It works like this: Act One, an African American family sit-com, reminiscent in tone of The Jeffersons plays through a long scene. Act Two, the same scene is repeated with low lights and the actors lip synching to the dialogue played at a low level. From off stage, four White voices comment on the scene and discuss race in the U.S. Act Three, the scene from Act One continues with the four White people assuming roles in addition to the four African Americans. The fourth wall is often broken throughout the play to jolt the largely White audience.
FAIRVIEW Deals with Cultural and Story Appropriation
The message has to do with storytelling—and who gets to tell what. Act One tells an African American story. In Act Two, White viewers use the story as a discussion springboard about racism in the U.S., centering on “What race would you like to be if you had a do-over?” In Act Three, the White people integrate into the original story as it proceeds. They play African American characters mentioned in Act One, but only appearing in Act Three.
The Age-old Problem that No One Listens
As Act Three changes to the dramatic, touchy subjects surface (teen pregnancy, gambling, drugs, and bankruptcy) and are addressed by the African American characters and the White/African American characters, neither listening to the other. Keisha, a teenage African American character, carries the moving message through a long final soliloquy about the story.
“And they looked to the left and saw that you had done
to try to make the life that you have lived,
And they took in that view.
And they looked to the right and saw what you had done
to try to make the life that have lived,
and they took in that view.
They took it all in.
And in their estimation
they found all of it,
their view over all of it,
the sum of all of it,
to be fair.”
FAIRVIEW is powerful on the page, but this reviewer had to check with reviews written by people who saw the play as the stage directions are difficult to interpret only from the written words. The use of voice-over by the White actors was not sensible from just reading the play. Also, a powerful component of the staged play is the use of dance throughout Acts One and Two. But, the words alone by playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury are powerful. She writes compelling dialogue, in this writer’s view, and stages her plays outside the box.
Reading FAIRVIEW, or any play, is not especially light, escapist reading. For a theater fan who wants to look beyond the staged package and into the construction of the play’s effect, reading FAIRVIEW is rewarding.
Published by Theatre Communications Group, 2019
For more information and to purchase a copy, visit the FAIRVIEW profile page in the Theater Communications Group online
Photos courtesy of Theatre Communications Group, unless otherwise indicated
Reviewer Ann Boland is committed to Chicago theater. Involved in the audience since the early 80’s, she’s witnessed firsthand the rise of our theater scene, our exceptional local talent, and the vigor of each new generation. Ann handles public relations for authors and works on programs to help seniors with neurological movement disorders. Please visit her website for more information.
Click here to read more Picture this Post reviews by Ann Boland.