Eyes of the American
Sacramento, CA 95819
In the second act of Eyes of the American, James (Gregory Jolivette), a cab driver and budding revolutionary, tells CIA agent Benny (Brandon Rubin), “I can’t to this day believe we voted for our own misery.” This is the great human lesson in Samm-Art Williams’ play about a politically and economically unstable Caribbean island: Intentions matter very little where power is involved. Under the deft direction of Celebration Arts’ artistic director James Wheatley, Eyes of the American is unrelenting in its demand that we question our assumptions about right and wrong.Issues of poverty, freedom, independence and colonialism take on a human face as Jolivette’s “Yes, boss” attitude melts from stereotype to angry heartbreak. James is the heart of the play, and Jolivette takes the role carefully through the transformations necessary to build the narrative. Since most of the action occurs in James’ memory, this role sets the emotional pace—and it is a rollercoaster. Jolivette displays great control; his grief is palpable but not hysterical, and his observations—as in his initial discussion of why African-Americans always say they have Cherokee heritage—slyly funny.
Rubin is a wonder. Not only does he take on two roles, but in one scene he plays both the CIA agent and the island’s dictator, a tour-de-force of craft that conveys both characters ably with subtle shifts in physical stance and vocal style. This is a young actor to watch.
Ifamodupe, locally known as a musician and performance artist, also takes on two roles: James’ wife, Roberta, a Cassandra figure, and Velda, a pragmatic soldier. Wheatley’s set evokes a sense of place but remains flexible and useful.
Eyes of the American, given current geo-politics, is more timely than ever; this production is one to see—and think about.