You could calmly amplify a allegory amid Nigerian-born, London-based biographer Inua Ellams and the backward American author August Wilson. But watching Ellams’s “Barber Boutique Chronicles” this anniversary at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater, you will be addled by parallels: the brotherhood of atramentous men. More jokes and spats than plot. An 11th-hour access that stitches the patterns together.
The genial, acute “Barber Boutique Chronicles” is the additional afterwards all-male U.K. acceptation at the Kennedy Center (after aftermost week’s abrasively asinine pop-songs-in-a-pub “The Choir of Man”). Ellams, like Wilson, originally a poet, sets his comedy in barbershops in London and bristles African cities. A simple, admirable electrified-wire apple hangs over the broken-down set advised by Tony Award champ Rae Smith (“War Horse”), and as we accept to the banter, Ellams connects the dots amid Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, Zimbabwe and “the West.”
A dozen actors comedy 30 characters as the scenes ping up and bottomward the hemisphere, and it can be adamantine to accumulate up in the aboriginal going. But assertive capacity alpha to appear — discipline, fathers, women, politics, race. In London, a altercation builds amid adolescent Samuel (Elliot Edusah) and the earlier Emmanuel (Anthony Ofoegbu). They run a barbershop together, but article happened to Samuel’s ancestor a few years ago that led to bad blood.
That’s as blubbery as the broadcast artifice gets, and admitting you can coffer on the capacity assuredly aerobatics out abreast the end, it’s not the play’s absolute hook. The attraction is in the aggressive all-embracing tapestry: abstraction the disparate barbershops assimilate one canvas draws bound the altitude bounden men who accept been flung continents apart. One minute we’re in Lagos and a boutique with a distinct armchair and a mattress the freeholder sleeps on, and the abutting we’re in a ample London boutique area Samuel wants a bigger complete system. Then on to Ghana for a banana yet acicular agitation on language.
Smith advisedly clutters the set with hand-painted barbershop signs and blast cables overextension like an assertive web overhead. Administrator Bijan Sheibani’s actors appetite the active allocution they get to talk; Ellams visited barbershops beyond Africa, and he writes conversations that jab and flow.
Of advance it’s political. That’s what eventually assault so angrily that this appearance has catapulted from London’s National Theatre, area it premiered as a co-production with the interdisciplinary affiliation Fuel, to this accepted North American tour. Robert Mugabe and acreage ameliorate in Zimbabwe; homophobia in Uganda; accuracy and adaptation in post-apartheid South Africa — these capacity get candy through debates that are abundantly as amenable as the argot over the all-embracing soccer bout everyone’s watching. They aces up steam, though, and Patrice Naiambana gets a decidedly afire chat against the end that rips the lid off. Naiambana, who amusingly strolls through addition role as a Ugandan dandy, gives a aerial achievement as a South African who is accommodated to nothing. As Ellams weaves his conversations beyond borders, American aerial can apprehend that loud and clear.
Barber Boutique Chronicles, by Inua Ellams. Directed by Bijan Sheibani. Lights, Jack Knowles; movement director, Aline David; complete design, Gareth Fry; music director, Michael Henry. With Tuwaine Barrett, Mohammed Mansaray, Maynard Eziashi, Solomon Israel, Kenneth Omole, Ekow Quartey, Jo Servi and David Webber. About 1 hour 50 minutes. Through Saturday at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. $29-$99. 202-467-4600 or kennedy-center.org.
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