By James Lex
Lighting effects above the house imitate the fireworks that capture the attention of Prix, the center character of Breath, Boom by Kia Corthron. Prix’s bedroom walls are covered with sparkling artwork of fireworks and she recites a plethora of information about how they work. And like how a firework burst with brilliant colors and mesmerizing shapes, NC A&T State University’s production did much the same.
R&B songs play through the speakers, fog creeps onto the stage, and an abstract cityscape is projected onto the back curtain. Here lays the world of the play where we travel with Prix on a twelve-year journey through the girl gang-life; a rare story told in the theatre. The dramaturgy note states that “recent data suggest that the future awaiting gang girls is bleak indeed,” and thus making this play not only important, but perhaps urgent. Prix is in-and-out of jail, caught in fights, and incredibly stubborn. But due to the talent of Brittany Timmons, Prix is a sympathetic character, balancing the tough exterior of a gang-leader, sensitive mind of an artist, and tender heart of a daughter.
At times the staging is unnatural with characters often facing out to the audience where the text demands an intimacy. Many of the lighting choices, such as the dominant spotlight that open and close the show, read meaningless. And the transitions, reminiscent of a hip-hop video, are a daring choice. However, neither of these missteps blur the message of the play.
The final scene between Prix and her mother created sniffling in the audience when Prix lets down her guard for a moment, revealing that everybody, no matter what they do, is still a human being. These touching stories spark a feeling that drives us to care. It draws us to characters we might never meet but somehow relate to. And to me, when theatre does it right: It’s magic. It’s a calling. It’s a boom!