If the ability to lead your audience on an emotional journey and instigate meaningful conversation are indicators of artistic success, then Cleveland Public Theatre’s newest production, “The Art of Longing,” deserves our highest praise.
The play, written by Lisa Langford and directed by Jimmie Woody, provides an almost-voyeuristic glimpse into the life and dreams of six African Americans working the night shift and keeping watch over some of Cleveland’s great institutions. Lively, familiar music, modern dance and graceful movements are juxtaposed with bold lyrics, historic imagery and cultural references that challenge our deepest assumptions about humanity, race, gender and art.
Full of belly laughs and serious contemplation, the 70-minute production moves quickly. Its talented cast brings Langford’s fantastical characters to life in a way that makes their removeable limbs and interchangeable organs seem familiar and commonplace. As the lights come down at the end of the play, ticket holders are left wanting more. More of security guard Grady’s crass sense of humor. More of his co-worker Samir’s soulful swagger. And more of the positive, thought-provoking energy that Langford’s script generates around deeply complex issues.
As Cleveland continues to confront and reconcile its long history of racial segregation, many residents seek ways to uplift and support organizations that celebrate diversity and empower people of color. Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) is one such institution. Your ticket purchase or donation helps provide a stage, a budget and enthusiastic promotional support for original productions that are written, directed and performed by artists who haven’t always been given center stage in mainstream theater.
Drink free beer. Seriously! Every Friday night following a Cleveland Public Theatre production, theatregoers are invited to join a game of conversational roulette. Here are the rules of the house: Ask the bartender for a beer (or wine or pop), and she/he will hand you a random playing card. In order to “pay” for your beverage, you’re asked to share your thoughts and experiences around the night’s performance with friends and strangers based on the cards you’ve been dealt. Basically, they’re paying you in free drinks just for sharing your opinion. Civic engagement doesn’t get any easier than that.
Header image of India Nicole Burton playing Samir. Photo by Steve Wagner.