DK Bowser, Deborah Green, Joe Mullen, Paul Pryce
It’s difficult to criticize the work of young companies, particularly those working with small budgets and large ambitions, attempting to make interesting, provocative theatre on a shoestring budget.
Playwright John Prescod’s new play Pre-Disposal, produced by EBE Ensemble, certainly has its charms, but there’s a quality of unfulfilled potential to the piece that keeps it from taking off into the stratosphere as it should.
Set in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in the present day, Prescod’s drama revolves around two black men, Rob X and George, who initiate a conversation with a young white hipster named Rob D, who happens to be a screenwriter looking for a breakout project, perhaps one that will shed light on the “authentic black experience.”
The situations set up within the play, exploring tensions between races, classes, and ages, are all valid and fascinating. And Prescod, as orchestrator of it all, has a winning voice that encompasses with a level of virtuosity the musicality of the voices in question – of the youthful hipster slang and street beat of the characters in question.
What the production ultimately lacks – and the pursuit of which is ultimately Prescod’s failing – is the establishment a forward impetus. Why, for instance, doesn’t Rob D just walk away when he’s approached by these two men on the street? They certainly don’t lead with any story pitches, and the fact that Rob D is in search of the perfect story is introduced far too late in the game.
This question of motivation continues throughout the play’s second half when the mysterious character of Elyse spends most of the act sitting on a bench by an oversize old-fashioned baby pram, sometimes reacting with disgust to Rob X’s carryings-on but rarely seeming a flesh-and-blood character. The final moments of the play, which reveal Elyse’s shocking (and dramatically jarring) back story, seem unearned and wholly artificial.
On the acting front, the performances of Paul Pryce and Joe Mullen, as Robs X and D respectively, shine, while DK Bowser as George fails to transmit much of a presence across the footlights despite the small size of the theatre. Deborah Green as Elyse has some fine moments and sells the final moments of the play despite their dramatic weaknesses, but her material ultimately doesn’t rise to match her talent.
There’s definite talent on display here on the part of EBE, who should most certainly continue in their attempts to create new, potentially dangerous-seeming work. But rewrites are a playwright’s friend, and this production seems more a work-in-progress than a finished product. As Prescod and the company learn to hone their work with further precision, their productions will certainly increase in quality and authenticity.