What with James Ijames winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (bravo!) two days ago, the bar was set very high for his newest play, Reverie which has just opened at Azuka Theatre. But unlike his earlier plays—funny, politically barbed, intellectually charged, and linguistically witty, Reverie is a tender, sentimental play. It takes up, yet again, the too-familiar trope of a young man’s regret that his relationship with his father was stunted by hiding his homosexuality, and his father’s regret that he was not a better father to his now-dead son. Grief and guilt, we’re told, are twins.
The expectant stage. A messy apartment’s door front and center. Who will come in? After much knocking, our question is answered when half-naked, towel-wrapped Jordan (David Bazemore) opens it on Paul (Damien J. Wallace) who is in quest of the facts and feelings of his dead son’s life. Lucas (Justin Mitchell), a ghostly memory, is the focus of both men’s reveries. Their daydreaming brings the past to the present onstage.
Paul found a book with Jordan’s address in it; this book, supposedly “beautiful” and “dystopian,” becomes a central device as they read aloud from it and discuss it and handle it with reverence. This is tedious. Also tedious is the stage time spent with Paul and Lucas playing the guitar and singing (it quickly becomes obvious that neither actor can sing or play). Also tedious is the cooking/eating , timeworn devices to fill time in a play when it runs out of things to say. Since it turns out neither father nor lover knows Lucas well, he emerges as just a cute, empty-headed, Ken-doll wannabe.
Borrowing from Athol Fugard’s famous last scene in Master Harold and the Boys, Ijames has his characters dance together,; this unfortunately reveals a debt unpaid.
Director Jerrell L. Henderson has the unenviable task of filling 90 minutes without enough material or interesting dialogue to work with.
Azuka Theatre at the Proscenium Theatre, 302 S. Hicks St. Through May 22.