All of What You Love and None of What You Hate, the first show of the Yale Cabaret’s spring semester, starts things off with a visceral play that keeps its audience off balance. What at first might seem to be a satire of online self-presentations, the gap between parents and teens, and the gap between the genders, turns out to be more fraught than that: it’s also about teen pregnancy and the difficult, and scarring, choice of abortion, and the attitudes and mores of the kids in the hood. YSD first year playwright Phillip Howze establishes himself from the get-go as a skilled manipulator of the vernacular—the lines here grasp the peculiarities of personal usage, set within the context of a lingua franca that all the teen characters have internalized. At least part of the play’s focus is on rendering the kind of “group mind” that teens inhabit in their collective effort to “grow up.” The situation that Girl A (Zenzi Williams) faces—at fifteen—shows how ill-considered that effort can be. And yet, the play seems to say, such is a part of life for far too many teens at risk.
We might ask why Girl A doesn’t “know better”: we don’t get definite answers. Her mother, played with steely prissiness by Prema Cruz, is not entirely unsympathetic, but, with her own efforts to find a man the main thing we know about her (besides the fact that she also has an infant and no husband), we can assume she’s just not there enough to steer her daughter. Girl B (Tiffany Mack), Girl A’s best friend, is more balanced, seeming to have control over the urges that lead the young astray—but, when it comes down to it, she’s too into herself to be much help to her friend.
That’s not to say that the play is out to point fingers—though the fecklessness of Boy (Cornelius Davidson), the young man who fucks and then wants to forget Girl A, is certainly pointed—but rather to give us a ringing sense of reality. To that end the voices that act as chorus—coming out of the dark or provided by perambulating figures in hoodies—help us hear how the choices of a Girl A are spun and rung and sung by that “everybody” we’re always aware of, looking over our shoulders, casting stones.
In the end, what are we to make of Girl A? Played with passive sullenness throughout most of the play, she speaks to us in monologue after the trial by fire of her self-administered abortion: when she says she wanted something but didn’t even know what she wanted, we hear her, in a kind of flashback, tease as a proud young girl enticing a guy, and when she returns to her sadder but wiser voice, Howze and Tarker and Williams give her a stance that makes this girl’s problem our problem. “You feel me?” she asks. Yes, we do.
Good work by all in the mostly First Year production, directed by Kate Tarker. The staging is perhaps a bit too “proscenium” for those who expect more fluid use of space from the Cab, but putting it all on a stage makes what we see a deliberate staging, and that helps us keep our distance. Lighting, music, scenic design, and projections all add dimension to this dynamic production, full of notable Cab debuts.
All of What You Love and None of What You Hate By Phillip Howze Directed by Kate Tarker
Choreographer: Jabari Brisport; Co-Scenic Designers: Portia Elmer, Mariana Sanchez; Costume Designer: Grier Coleman; Lighting Designer: Oliver Wason; Co-Sound Designers: Pornchanok Kanchanabanca, Sang Ahm; Projection Designer: Paul Lieber; Dramaturg: Helen C. Jaksch; Stage Manager: Rob Chikar; Co-Producers: Stephanie Rolland, Sarah Williams
The Yale Cabaret January 17-19, 2013