Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 26, 2019

REVIEW: America v. 2.1 The Sad Demise & Eventual Extinction of the American Negro

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through June 30, 2019
by India Anderson

Photo by Daniel Rader
Imagine a play production whose ending calls for nothing – silence, no final applause, no bows. Even the program book does not give credit to the actors. This is “America v. 2.1…” This is highly unusual. Yet, playwright Stacey Rose is an unusually gifted writer who has penned the first winner of the Terry Burman New Play Award Grand Prize.

Rose’s accolades also include the Goodman Theatre’s (Chicago) selection as one of four female playwrights to participate in its Playwrights Unit—a season-long residency dedicated to developing the work of emerging writers.

Set in the not too distant future, America v. 2.1 is a day in the life of a troupe of Black actors who are charged with re-enacting the revised history of the once-thriving American Negro. It quickly becomes a day of reckoning as the troupe is forced to face the parallels their own lives draw to the lives of the very Negroes whose stories they are compelled to tell. America v 2.1 is a provocative, funny and dark look at Black Americans in post-apocalyptic America.

What is there not to say about the play and its playwright? Rose enlightens the audience with her unique writing style of truth vs. myth. America v 2.1 should be seen by all ethnicities to help gain a better understanding of the history of the American Negro in America.

The play entertains but goes well beyond that purpose to spark deep conversation, and simultaneously sparks deep conversation among audience members. That was surely the intent of director Logan Vaughn, who beautifully and gently demonstrates the underlining dilemmas within our society from the past through today, with just enough comedic undertones

Blessed with a talented seasoned cast, Ansa Akyea (Donavan) has opportunity to showcase his strong versatility by portraying several different characters along with voice imitations of others. Jordan Barrow's character (Grant) is well-played, as is Kalyne Colman (Leigh), a remarkable talent who skillfully changes her character from strong and serious to comedic seemingly effortlessly. Peterson Townsend (Jeffery) depicts his character as all-consuming and courageous; some emotional scenes with Akyea are captivating. Actor Peggy Pharr Wilson’s voice has the perfect tone for her position of authority.

Choreography by Kevin Bosman is crisp and innovative, Set Design by Jack Magaw is simplistic. At the same time, dance and set mesh to create scenes of tremendous power.

America v 2.1 is a production that could be seen again and again, with each time learning, and gaining a new or different understanding of the African American Culture in America. 

Rose says, “Having the play produced [as well] meets and exceeds my wildest dreams for the world premiere.”