by D. Malik

Phylicia Rashad directs this new production of Stephen Adly Giurgis’ play Our Lady of 121stStreet, which brings together a motley crew of characters that makes one wonder how and why these people are together, under this imaginary circumstance, on that stage. What ensues is a magical collaboration of wit, vulnerability, heartbreaking honesty, and dark humor.

5 Reasons It's Awesome

1. Quincy Tyler Bernstine and Hill Harper. These two are firecrackers popping in molten mahogany who bring a fire to the stage that can only be muted when the two finally share words near the end of the play. These gifted expert practitioners of the craft seem like that nostalgic couple on the subway - before New York was full of hipsters from Montana - that you can’t look away from. Real New Yorkers talking about real New York ‘ish’ and discovering how they fit into this giant world. 

2. One liners, quips, and quick wit. Stephen Adly Guirguis’ playwrighting is something you want to witness. His wit is fast, and the one liners don’t disappoint. You know that moment in the cafeteria when the entire room whole room yells “OHHHH”? There were hundreds of those and I couldn’t help myself but to respond as if I were witnessing a boxing match. Here's one of those one-liners: "If you so smart, why the fuck you live in Connecticut for??!!" Definitely sounds like the title for a track off of my next mixtape...but I can’t afford those royalties.

Photos: Monique Carboni

3. Catholic school alum will love it. If you went to Catholic school (especially in New York), I am sure Our Lady of 121st Street will bring some form of cathartic healing to you. The motley crew in the play gathers for the funeral of a Nun who has recently passed. John Doman (Lietuenant Rawls from The Wire) plays the aggressively honest Father Lux, who has had his position for 47 years. You know the type...

4. Dierdre Friel. Dierdre Friel brilliantly plays Sonia, a well-intentioned kind lady from Connecticut who stays too long. To me, she represents the theater audience at large. She is all of us. A wide-eyed and non-judgmental lady who is ready to witness a new world with fresh eyes.

5. It's under 2 hours. Include the 15-minute intermission and I am sure it is shorter than your favorite movie. And, yet, the audience still gets to really hear the textures of the voices that fill this play.  If you’re a new patron to the theater, you may ask yourself is $30 really worth it? I say, SI SE PUEDE. You should invest in this magical night of theater. 

I left Our Lady Of 121st Street with more questions than answers, but that's a good thing. In the words of Björk, “I’m not sure what to do with it...or where to put it” and that is always a good feeling when viewing art. Pop out to this show if you can...even if you’re travelling from Connecticut!

Runs through June 17.