Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lyrics From Lockdown by Bryonn Bain

Bryonn Bain

By Joe Straw

Theatre can’t get anymore beautiful than this, so indulge me for breaking a few rules. – Narrator

Bryonn (pronounced Bree on) has a lovely voice, smooth, soothing to the core, a voice to meditate to, with, and by.  His mellifluous declaration filled the spacious UCLA Freud Playhouse Theatre with lyrics and songs on the night of March 4th, 2016.

And when Bryonn’s voice dies and the stark black and white pictures fade, the message lingers.  It is a voice worn from repetition but strong in its resolve that, although the battle against injustice may make one weary, is nevertheless a battle that must be won.  

“Marcus Garvey Boulevard” is a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and also a song of the same title.  The voice that Bryonn sings, while taking a stand, is lonely, crying out for righteousness on the road against racism, hate, and oppression.    The lyrics and music would lift any soul from the emotional scars of the past.  Naytheless, from him, the tone is sincere and his fight is justified.  

In the artwork projected on screen, a light pole stands, casting no light on to a darkened street, slightly relieving the fear of being alone on Marcus Garvey Boulevard and alone in the dark. And in the image, the creator of the painting, appears to be etching the line to make the apartment building stretch city blocks, and yet the light is not resilient, the building fades in the dark, the streets are opaque, the sidewalk uneven, and of the tune of a softly sung song about a body on Marcus Garvey Boulevard.

What body?  I’m not quite sure.

But for now, he sits solemnly in a jail cell beyond the rising scrim. Bryonn recreates a life, his life from the past now standing alone, in black, wearing a uniform, this hoodie, and white sneakers. 

Byronn is short, buffed, too much time in the gym, or not enough, depending on how one looks at these things.  But his voice is clear, head protruding toward the sky like a repressed songbird, but warning you about life, that for some is not so smooth – all in vocalized poetry.   

Images, songs, and videos emanates from all directions – the first arrest, dismissed, and then trouble, big trouble. After a 60 Minutes interview – with Mike Wallace, there is retribution.  It is a concerted effort that has no end point in an effort to discredit his life. He is a man from Harvard with a voice that others think must be silenced.    

The activism is real. And, theatre by definition is activism.

What night is so right and so cleverly defined?

Gina Belafonte, the director, sends us out into the night, absorbing the visuals and peacefully humming the songs.  The message is not one of anger but a measured speak, a peaceful parting of how much we have to learn.  Belafonte chooses a direction that speaks not of violence, but in a calm persuasive tone to make change.   

The musicians added to the brilliant night.  They were Aaron Shaw, Saxophone and Flute, Click, Beatbox and Chains, Isaiah Gage, Cello and Beatbox, and Jachary Beats, Bass and Guitar.

Stevie Wonder was there on this night, absorbing what they offered.  And Rob Reiner was there as well.     

The art projected on screen is real, compliments of – “a social justice organization that enlists the support of today’s most celebrated artists and influential individuals in collaboration with grassroots partners to elevate the voices of the disenfranchised, and promote peace and equality” – a mouth full to say to be sure.   

The layers of injustice are clear to those watching. And when the lines of injustice are layered, everyone loses, until we lose sight and thoughts become a festering pile of antipathy.   

“Definitions are for the defined.” - Bryonn Bain

Embrace humanity.

When Lyrics from Lockdown comes your way, run to see this production.  And, take a friend, who has witnessed injustice and now has a calling.

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