Stuck Soars

stuck by naila belvett, directed by ahdri zhina mandiela, with debbie young. Presented by b current as.

stuck by
naila belvett, directed by ahdri zhina
mandiela, with debbie young. Presented
by b current as part of the
rock.paper.sistahz festival at Theatre
Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson).
Runs in rep (two shows per night) to June
9, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee
Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$20. 416-504-7529.
Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN

Naila Belvett’s play, stuck, deals with different kinds of entrapment, yet its insights and observations are liberating and cathartic. An unnamed young black woman (debbie young) hauls a thick piece of rope onstage and, as she circumnavigates its symbolic twists and turns, recounts events and ideas from her life.

Grieving the death of her father, she finds herself, in her early 20s, stuck in an emotional stasis that’s partly self-induced — she admits a weakness for spliffs — and partly a result of her cultural hybrid status. As a woman of Jamaican heritage living in Canada, she feels like an outsider in both cultures.

belvett displays impressive range. She’s capable of raunchy humour, intellectual argument, self-conscious irony and poetic reminiscence. A few too many issues are covered, though, without enough authenticating details to ground them.

And I wish the work’s narrative logic were tighter.

The script is strongest when it lets us see and hear what it’s like, say, to grow up in Canada, or when belvett makes us imagine the sound of a cop’s bullet flying through space before hitting and killing one of the narrator’s black brothers.

Young’s performance is miraculous. She can change moods in a flash, and her energy and enthusiasm inform each word and gesture.

Director ahdri zhina mandiela holds the piece together, carefully demarcating the scenes — she’s helped by Andy Moro’s atmospheric lighting — and letting the power build, link by link, until the final poignant and disturbing image.

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