Aku Kadogo’s interpretation of Will Power’s one-man show runs through Feb. 27
Tashif Turner plays Will Power and Bridgette Jordan plays Ole’ Cheesy in the Bonstelle Theatre’s production of Flow that opened Feb. 18.
At the crossroads of hip-hop and spoken word, a one-man show transformed into a seven-person ensemble that explores the multi-faceted essence of storytelling.
Flow, by Will Power, was originally an off Broadway one-man show, a repurposing of the griot, an African storyteller, to a modern setting. Strange as it may be to preserve the idea of oral tradition with a scripted performance Flow is organic and, at times, visceral. It blurs the line between play and musical by maintaining a constant, well, flow, which is sustained with beats provided by the DJ, Justin Crutchfield.
One of the most enjoyable parts of Flow is the set design; a series of ramps creates a distinct fore, middle, and background. The foreground is created by two ramps forming the edges of a circle that taper down before center stage, so the audience is included in the intimacy of the story-telling circle. The set, and its use, is like an urban industrial adaptation of Daft Punk’s “Around the World.” The use of the stage space vertically creates layers of action, all occurring in what is still the foreground. The middle of the stage is a flatter plane, but it stands in contrast with the background; defined by a ramp rising at a sharp angle, shrouded behind a screen that is used to creating haunting, or amusing, shadow depictions during stories. The hip-hop element of the play paces the performances, providing punctuation to the more poignant messages, and keeping the audience thoroughly enthralled.
Standing in the Majestic café, wearing a black and white polka-dot dress and a hat that could just as easily be worn by Federico Fellini, Director Aku Kadogo explained how the one man show became an ensemble performance at Wayne State.
“I saw Will Power do this in 2002… I was very impressed with his performance, because it’s quite a phenomenal performance, but I was also impressed with the story,” she said.
“But then, our lives kept conjuncting, I brought him to Wayne State twice, once for a one-day workshop, and then again for a week-long residency.”
“That’s when I got to talk to talk to him about his work and his inspiration and I knew we were on the same page. One thing led to another and a thought of doing this as an ensemble work, and now I see how incredibly powerful it is. I learned more about the script by directing it.”
Tashif Turner is well-suited for the role of Will Power, essentially the emcee of the play. As with any good concert, the opening act, a story told by a panhandler named Breeze, bursts with energy, incorporating the audience into the performance with the occasional direct address. Each of the stories explores a different element of urban culture and different elements of stage performance.
The opening night performance was executed well, with the exception of the occasional audio peak and some difficulties keeping light sticks on during an impressively choreographed routine during a story told by Preacha Man (Jackson McLaskey). The worst part of the show was the obnoxious laughter from some members of the audience. And that’s a good problem to have.