Head of Passes at the Mark Taper Forum

Who knew that Tony and Emmy nominated Phylicia Rashad, who many people fondly remember as Clair Huxtable on the long-running iconic 1980s television show The Cosby Show, could move every single audience member into tears with her electrifying, King Lear-style soliloquy during the opening night of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play Head of Passes?


Rashad, dubbed “The Mother” by the African-American community at the 2010 NAACP Image Awards, plays a raging Southern matriarch that desperately wants her children to unite as a family. She is a religious woman who seeks God’s guidance throughout the chaotic events happening in her life.

This intense production, by Yale graduate McCraney, is directed by Tina Landau, and filled with poetic prose, mostly recited by Rashad, as her faith is tested.

The play opens with scenic design by G.W. Mercier’s clapboard wood house with brick trim set where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. Lighting designer Jeff Croiter and Sound designers Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen’s create a storm brewing with the sound of wind, rain, and thunder. The timing of this show is set in the distant present, which is eerie to watch as Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico recently were ravaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

As family and friends gather at the family home to celebrate Shelah’s birthday, Croiter gives us hints that the story is moving down a dark path, with the periodic popping of a light bulb hanging on string after each lightning and thunder burst. The roof starts leaking throughout the house as the unrelenting rain pounds outside. Mopping up the water is one of the first challenges in this contemporary parable inspired by the Book of Job. What looks like a tidy living room filled with pink upholstered furniture and rug, becomes saturated with water.

Continue reading my review by clicking on this link – Head of Passes in The Stage Review

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