In the opening moments of “Our Lady of 12st Street,” now in an explosive revival at Off Broadway’s Signature Theatre, playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis demonstrates a flare for firecracker dialogue that grabs our interest and underscores his beaten-down urban characters’ capacity for hair-trigger outbursts of anger and despair.
“What kinda f—in’ world is this?” shouts Victor (John Procaccino) beside the casket of Sister Rose, a beloved figure in the Harlem neighborhood where Guirgis’ 2003 drama is set. Victor delivers his epic rant of an opening monologue without pants — they have been stolen from him overnight, along with the corpse of the alcoholic nun who taught many of the play’s dozen or so characters.
Victor is not the only one to raise his voice in anger in “Our Lady of 121st Street,” which offers a kind of symphony of rage — much of it about the frustration borne of these well-drawn characters’ own shoddy life choices and the inevitable consequences.
The now-delayed funeral of Sister Rose provides an excuse for both a reunion of these troubled souls, as well as a reckoning with old demons.
Phylicia Rashad keeps most of the scenes tethered to a kind of heightened reality, allowing her uniformly talented cast to dig into the juicier disses without letting them lapse into the stuff of acting exercises.
Read my full review at TheWrap.