The mission of Roundabout Underground is to present works by emerging playwrights in the Black Box Theatre below the Laura Pels. In past years they have presented promising plays by Stephen Karam (Speech and Debate) and Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews.) Currently onstage is this ambitious work by Jeff Augustin, which deals mainly with Haitian refugees in Miami. We meet seven vivid characters. Sula (Carra Patterson) is a young pregnant woman from Haiti who struggles to delay her baby’s arrival until she is in the U.S. She is haunted by nightmares about her past. Her baby does not cry. Joel (Maurice Jones) is the son of the landlord who has turned his apartment house into a de facto refuge for immigrants. Carolyn (Deirdre O’Connell) is a nursing home aide with 11 children who lives in one of the apartments and who reluctantly takes Sula in. Vishal (Chris Myers) is the resident drag queen who sometimes sits for Carolyn’s children. Madison (Crystal Lucas-Perry) is Joel’s stereotypically yuppy cousin who hires Sula as her nanny. Manuel (Gilbert Cruz) is a dying patient of Carolyn’s who is estranged from his children. The Man (Carl Hendrick Louis) is the figure from Sula’s past who figures prominently in her nightmares. Some of the topics touched upon include the struggle to preserve a family heritage, the corrosive effects of gentrification, the disappearance of God, the attempt to escape one’s past, the efficacy of voodoo and the pain of dying alone unloved. I wished that the playwright had narrowed his scope and presented fewer but more fully developed themes. Some of the actors had trouble maintaining a Creole accent. Andrew Boyce’s flexible set design is simple but effective. Jennifer Caprio’s costumes are appropriate. Giovanna Sardelli’s direction cannot hide the unevenness of the material. Augustin shows promise if his control can catch up with his ambition. Running time: 2 hours including intermission.
Note: Judging from tonight’s theatergoers, Roundabout’s marketing to nontraditional audiences has been far more successful than LCT3’s. Tickets are $5 cheaper ($20 vs. $25), but I doubt that difference is significant.