When Hurricane Katrina hit the US and surrounding areas in August 2005, it killed almost 2000 people, displaced tens of thousands more, and caused $125 billion in damage – black communities were disproportionately affected. The storm raged on for eight days.
Boo Killebrew’s The Play About My Dad takes place during those eight days. It is a metatheatrical family drama set against the backdrop of stories of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. But the link between the two sides is so tenuous you spend much of the 90-minute production wondering why they share a stage at all.
There is redemption in the performances. When Michael Thomas (T’Jai Adu-Yeboah) yearns – first for his lost dog and then for his lost parents, you yearn with him. Mrs Essie’s (Miquel Brown) final monologue is enthralling. And, the bromance between Kenny (Ammar Duffus) and Neil (Nathan Welsh) is dynamic and delicious; their unapologetic love for each other is engrossing, and you miss them when they are not on the stage.
Charlotte Espiner’s stage of wooden pallets – the kind on which many of the survivors slept during and in the aftermath of the storm – brings the setting home. Elena Pena’s sound design consists of relentless rain hammering down.
Killebrew has written a mediocre drama about the reconciliation of a dysfunctional family, and added some black pain in an attempt to make it compelling. Director Stella Powell-Jones’ framing of this is distasteful and the result is something quite grotesque.