Bridge Rep's "FUFU & OREOS": Double Dunkin' Dark Roast

Obehi Janice in "FUFU & OREOS"

FUFU & OREOS”, a one-person piece created and performed by the brilliant local young author Obehi Janice, is one of two works now being presented (in real repertory) by Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston. (The other is a two-hander, “Sixty Miles to Silver Lake”, by playwright Dan LeFranc). As the author is quoted in the program, she had “never read a play about a young Nigerian-American girl sorting out her life. So I thought, what is the worst thing I could write? A play about myself. And here we are”. And here we are indeed, with one of the most unusual theatrical experiences one could hope for, all in the unique voice (or, more correctly, voices) of this tremendous talent. There's a great deal of deeply personal revelation, with what might be called double dunkin': near the beginning of the play, “fufu” or mashed yams, is dipped in soup; at the end of the play, Oreo cookies are dunked in milk, all in a darkly knowing self-roast of sorts. Rarely has a performer presented an audience with such drenching and wrenching truth. As Directed by Rebecca Bradshaw here, this was theater at its most remarkably involving, with huge support from this amazingly versatile company.

The magic begins with a rollaway cot, part of the ingenious cardboard Scenic Design by Anita Shriver, aided in no small measure by the perfectly coordinated and complex Lighting Design by Juliana Beecher and Sound Design by Andrew Duncan Will. Add to these contributions the colorful Costume Design by Tyler Kinney, and you have some idea of how much this work is dependent upon many unseen creatives. Along the way, one is treated to a barefoot crabwalk, totally distinct dialects for the author's father, mother, aunts and uncles, as well as a smarmy television cooking show host, and even a spot-on Boston accent that ran the gamut from “Wickahd Smaht” to “Woosta” (MA), to a devastating “Lion King” putdown. We learned, as Obehi Janice ticked off “minus this, add that”, that she was first enlightened about sex from the television series “Seinfeld”, naming her pet bird “Kramer”. She shares how different it is to walk the streets of Lowell or Boston, after having “felt like you belonged” when walking African city streets. A self-described Texas-born “African princess”, she's told by a well-meaning but fatuous (mandatory) college counselor (with her “Janet Reno glasses and Margaret Thatcher pantsuit” and office filled Georgia O'Keefe “vagina paintings”) that Nigerian culture is the main cause of her clinical depression. When asked by the same counselor if she wants to be happy, she responds “of course I do; I don't know how”.

The scant one hundred minutes seemed to fly by in this nimble and energetic dynamo of a performance. Though the playwright has been honing the details and incorporating a lot of disparate influences into a more and more cohesive whole, it's hard to imagine it could use more than a bit of trimming here and there. As she herself might enumerate, this is an event with “Minus attitude; Add honesty”.

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