She Said/He Said a poetic portrait of Black identity, culture, and relationships

Photo Credit: Antoine Saito

Conceived by playwright and composer Anne-Marie Woods and directed by Black Theatre Workshop Artistic Director Quincy Armorer, SHE SAID/HE SAID makes its world premiere at the M.A.I. in a comedic and dramatic story of love, dating, and relationships told from the perspective of the modern African Canadian.

When vulnerability is equated with weakness and societal stereotypes confine us to a conforming mold, how can intimacy and authentic self-expression be manifested and received without rejection, judgement, and discrimination? In the cunning SHE SAID/HE SAID, the dialogue is driven by the desire to explore and expose how gender, ethnicity, and culture affect our perceptions of self and our relationship dynamics with those that cross our paths.

SHE (portrayed by the brassy Mariah Inger), recently arrived in Toronto, is a self-proclaimed strong, independent career woman striving to be seen, heard, and respected. HE (played by a mesmerizing Christian Paul) is a single parent struggling in his search for identity, security, and understanding. When their lives intersect, their commitment to make their courtship work is challenged by conflicting wishes to save face and pride in society and to fulfill an inmost need for connection. It’s a fight to bring down the cold, concrete walls of the urban jungle surrounding them – and, primarily, of the communication and emotional barriers they’ve built around themselves.

Photo Credit: Antoine Saito
Mariah Inger and Christian Paul star in SHE SAID/HE SAID. Photo Credit: Antoine Saito

Woods, an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist, has infused this semi-autobiographical script with original music, monologue, and poetry to create a unique theatrical experience of spoken word. (While many of these rhythmically stylistic moments were immensely compelling, however, others were admittedly uncomfortable to sit though – most notably the musical numbers. The two leads are actors above singers, and it is their exceptional storytelling paired with a relevant script that keeps us thoroughly engaged. All merits given, however, for the creative risk.) Eric Mongerson’s lighting design is handsomely effective in creating a dynamic transition between scenes and performance mediums, with Elahe Marjovi’s set design also being triumphant in its use of mirrored, reflecting panels.

Photo Credit: Antoine Saito
Christian Paul as HE in SHE SAID/HE SAID. Photo Credit: Antoine Saito

Providing a crisp and clear look at the social issues of race and traditional gender roles in the context of family and romantic relationships, this poignant play eloquently fulfills Black Theatre Workshop‘s mandate of developing and providing a voice for Canadian artists of visible minorities. In exploring the adversities faced by Black men and women in a world of labels, stereotypes, and social expectations, however, the search for meaning, truth, and compassion is all but exclusive to a singular segregated community. In SHE SAID/HE SAID, the struggle is arguably universal; the story, potentially all too painfully relatable.

Don’t miss The Black Theatre Workshop’s moving production of She Said/He Said, which plays at the MAI, Montréal Arts Interculturels, 3680 Jeanne-Mance Street until May 1, 2016. Tickets are $23.50 – 28.59 and can be purchased online at http://m-a-i.qc.ca/en/ or by calling the MAI box office at (514) 982-3386.


Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Editor-in-Chief Camila Fitzgibbon

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