A Strange Loop
Synopsis: Usher is a black, queer writer, working a day job he hates while writing his original musical: a piece about a black, queer writer, working a day job he hates while writing his original musical. Michael R. Jackson’s blistering, momentous musical follows a young artist at war with a host of demons — not least of which, the punishing thoughts in his own head — in an attempt to capture and understand his own strange loop.
n usher named Usher writing a play about an usher named Usher writing a play about an usher named Usher writing a play about an usher named Usher writing a……well you get the idea! Strange Loop, the new musical being played at the Lyceum Theatre offers the opportunity to look into the window of the life of Michael R. Jackson, the writer of both the book and the music/lyrics. Throughout the show, we are taken into the meta world of Usher (played by Jaquel Spivey), a black, fat, queer, writer working on his original show, “A Strange Loop.” Usher is joined by Thought’s 1 through 6 to tell the story of his life leading up to the completion of his show, which completes the characters show, which completes …. yah you get the idea.
Throughout the story the audience and Usher are confronted by the real insecurities of dating, living, and working as someone who is black, fat, and queer through both tender and comedic moments. The Thoughts portray the various family members and people in Usher’s life as he works up the courage to confront his family regarding their homophobia and his own sense of self worth. Usher ultimately must break out of his Strange Loop to begin truly allowing himself to heal and to ultimately complete his work.
Jaquel’s portrayal of Usher is thoughtful, emotional, and grounded. Jaquel’s portrayal brings a raw authenticity to the role, opening the door to dialogue about the black, queer experience in the United States. Jaquel’s voice does not miss a note and powers through not only the brassy loud moment, but also the tender soft moments. The Thoughts (1 - L. Morgan Lee, 2 - James Jackson, Jr., 3 - John-Michael Lyles, 4 - John-Andrew Morrison, 5 - Jason Veasey, and 6 - Antwayn Hopper) also deliver 3 dimensional and heartbreaking moments throughout the life of Usher. Under the direction of Stephen Brackett and the Choreography of Raja Feather Kelly, this cast of 7 truly shines and create thought provoking moments between the words to truly capture the magic of the stage.
The set by Arnulfo Maldonado is reminiscent of Grecian arches, lending the Thoughts to make their entrances as each character needed at the time of the story. The costuming by Montana Levi Blanco supported the cast, with the Thoughts being in pale pink ensembles, and Usher in every day attire.
Overall, the cast delivers an emotional, funny, and powerful show that is unapologetically, black, fat, and queer, opening up the audience to truly begin listening to experiences that they may not be able to understand. This show is a solid 5/5.
Follow our Entertainment Pundit: