By Bob Hoover
City Theatre opened its new season with a raucous, in-your-face company of performers of color that shook the dust off its reopened South Side venue closed during the pandemic year.
Live From the Edge by Universes, nurtured in the clubs, community centers, and street corners of New York in 1995, brings home the joy and despair of minorities as they struggle with racism, poverty, oppression, crime, and neglect.
Founders Mildred Ruiz-Sapp and Steven Sapp join five other performers blending literary references from the Beats to Nuyorican poets, sounds from Motown to hip-hop with contemporary events, to build a disturbing portrait of life in a dangerous, often deadly America.
It’s not pretty, but powerful and probably uncomfortable for the City Theatre audiences from safer, prosperous communities. In fact, this is a warning: Be prepared for confrontation, searing language, and descriptions of violence.
Also, be ready to enjoy a troupe of talented, entertaining singers, musicians, and actors who can transform into a variety of roles and characters. Steven Sapp, who leads the company, said the show changes from night to night as it follows the news. The performance I attended included references to climate change and former NFL coach Jon Gruden but avoided partisan politics.
The format is straightforward. Sophia Ramos, Asia Mark, Nate John Mark, Chris Mansa, and Sangou and the Sapps stand at mikes for the full 90-minute show and engage with the audience.
The foundation seems set: Songs, poetry, and descriptions of minority life are the basis of the show, although improvisation is frequent.
In its opening show, City Theatre isn’t shying away from reality with conventional plays. Instead, it brings the harsh notes of a troubled country before its audiences.
Live From the Edge
Created and performed by Universes
City Theatre, 1300 Bingham St., South Side. Through Oct. 31, 2021
Tickets: 412-431-2489 or www.citytheatrecompany.org