When you think of a play that features rap, you may be expecting a clash of over the top personalities, some witty revisionist history, or at the very least some fireworks. Well, THE WIND AND THE BREEZE now playing at The Cygnet Theatre does offer some fireworks, but it mostly eschews the rest of the obvious assumptions and instead settles on a quiet, funny, and contemplative play about the choices we make and the roads it leads us down.
Who doesn’t love Fourth of July fireworks? San Diegans especially know the value of having the perfect spot to get the best view. So really, when the main character Sam (Terrell Donnell Sledge) sets up camp citing this as his reason, it shouldn’t be all that odd. Except that it’s February, and Sam is not only way too early, but also makes his friends wonder, why of all the roads open to him did he choose this one?
This curiosity is thrown into sharp relief when we find out that Sam was once a reigning champion hip-hop emcee and when push comes to shove he’s not afraid to show he still has the skills to rule in this arena. His friend Shantell (Demetrius Clayton) a rapper whose ambitions have him looking towards Atlanta and a recording studio wants Sam to come along. As Shantell tries to convince Sam to join him and their mutual friends Tea (Cortez L. Johnson), Nia (Chaz Shermil), and newcomer Ana (Nadia Guevara) on the journey they find that Sam is rooted to his new location.
Even the neighborhood cop Ronda (Monque Gaffney), who also finds herself in the midst of embracing new opportunities, encourages Sam to find something more suited to his talents.
Sledge finds depths to Sam, as he initially turns defensive before slowly opening up to express the more complicated emotions that run deep within. Clayton’s Shantell is loud and intense next to Sam’s quiet confidence, which leads to a satisfying confrontation via rap battle near the end of the first act as these two personalities clash.
The rest of the cast is equally as excellent, with a standout from Guevara in a sprightly and optimistic turn as a singer excited about their upcoming opportunities. Gaffney is a balance to all these optimistic artists as the practical but concerned cop who wants Sam to succeed.
Directed by Rob Lufty, the show feels true to life and uses pacing and silences to great effect. It takes skill both from the director and the actors to find ways to find balance and a blending between quiet intensity and the explosion of the rap. The set by Sean Fanning is a diagonal bridge backed by the city skyline giving a true sense of permanence to the location, while still offering two paths for the characters to choose from.
Sometimes internal contemplation can look like standing still to those on the outside, and this play does at times suffer from a bit of a lack of forward momentum from Sam. His information is doled out in such spare doses that it can be hard at times for the audience to care about what drives his journey.
Ultimately, THE WIND AND THE BREEZE is an original piece filled with strong roles and proves that life is truly lived in the moments between the rap battles (or the fireworks) not just during them.
It seems obvious, but in a show about rap there is rapping, and strong language so prepare accordingly.
THE WIND AND THE BREEZE is playing through June 10th at the Cygnet Theatre. For ticket and show time information go to www.cygnethtetre.com