“THROUGH THE NIGHT”

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Daniel Beaty

There are perhaps a dozen characters gracing the stage at the Union Square Theatre these days — more or less, that is; after a while I lost count — including a precocious kid, his shopkeeper Dad, a gay corporate executive and his lover, and a diabetic preacher and his long-suffering wife… just to name a few.  They laugh, cry, shout, occasionally even sing, and are never anything less then sharply-drawn, indelibly portrayed, and REAL.

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And they are all played, in a virtuoso performance, by the same actor.
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“Through the Night”, Daniel Beaty’s one-man show (he wrote and stars in it) offers solo acting at its finest.  Moving about a sparse set under the sure-handed direction of Charles Randolph-Wright, aided only by projected images of urban landscapes — mostly of the skyscraper-and-tenement variety — he brings to life, with ease and precision, an entire roster of folks meant to represent, in one way or another, the black experience in contemporary America.
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Picking a lead character out of this “ensemble” would be impossible, but the three most prominent would appear to be Eric, the boy genius with the fully-equipped lab up in his room; his Dad, who runs an herb-and-health food store named after his late, beloved mother; and the overweight preacher who thinks he’s hiding sweets and snacks from his wife, but — because she’s much shrewder than even he realizes — isn’t really fooling her, at all.  (The dangers of a life spent stuffing oneself full of sugary snacks are brought home to roost when the preacher ends up hospitalized in a diabetic coma.)
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Sure, some of the characterizations are a bit cliched, some of the relationships a bit too pat, particularly in the preacher’s storyline.  His son’s gay lover is as swishy as they come (even if, thank heavens, the son himself is not)… the preacher is as deep in denial about his son’s sexuality as the young man is deep in the closet… and in one of the key scenes in the play, when the son has a chance to come out to his Dad during a telephone conversation, he (disappointingly, I must admit) chickens out at the last moment.
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Minor quibbles, all.  Beaty’s ability to change character and alter his voice — to stop one characterization on the proverbial dime before launching into another — is breathtaking.  One moment he’s Eric, the boy, with his high- pitched voice and innocent, childlike demeanor, and the next he is Eric’s Dad, stern, deep-voiced, ramrod-straight, ordering his son out of his room and down to the dinner table; here he’s the preacher-man, all shambling walk and protruding belly, yet by the time he has reached the other side of the stage he is the man’s loyal, sweet, kindhearted wife, confessing to the audience just how much, despite his flaws, she loves him.
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And Beaty isn’t only a marvelous actor, either.  Some of the writing — some of the lines and monologues — are so beautiful, they’re poetic.  “Through the Night” is one of those plays that one day, if we’re lucky, will be as much of a pleasure to read as it is to see.
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Hurry over to the Union Square Theatre and catch it while you can.  Scheduled to close January 2, it should not be missed.
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THEATER REVIEW by Stuart R. Brynien