“The Wedding Gift” Produced by Forward Flux Productions

Forward Flux is a recent member of Seattle’s theatre community. Its director Wesley Frugé relocated to Seattle last year and has since mounted a number of plays here.

“The Wedding Gift” by Chisa Hutchinson, now playing at Gay City Arts premiered at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival in the Washington, D.C. area earlier this year to high praise. This production directed by Wesley Frugé and Pilar O’Connell also deserves commendation.

Called “a sci-fi parable about slavery” most of its dialog is spoken in a language created for the play. We the audience, like the main character, Doug, don’t know what any of the words mean, but we certainly can figure out their intent, and can certainly empathize with poor Doug, stripped of his clothes (be aware, full frontal nudity), chained by the ankle, poked and prodded like a strange specimen, a man out of time and place.

He has no idea what happened to him, and nobody seems able or feels a need to explain it to him. Everyone around him is dark skinned. He’s a white man trapped in a black man’s world who gradually realizes that he’s enslaved, cut off from his own society and, worst of all, removed from his beloved daughter. His long chain plays an important role here. Every time he moves, we hear the chain and our sense of slavery is reinforced.

Andrew Shanks brings to the role all the conflicting emotions it demands. Also outstanding are Charhys Bailey and Tré Calhoun. But it’s unfair to select any in this cast for special attention. All are excellent. All but Doug speak the invented language of the play with aplomb, allowing the audience to gain a good sense of what they are saying even though the words are unintelligible to us.

The production values are good too, especially the costumes designed by Carolyn Hall. Strips of black, squares and triangles of gold cloth, fanciful headdresses—all the bits and pieces work together in stunning fashion. They are evocative of sci-fi, but also reminiscent of Egyptian tomb art. Let’s just say they are remarkable. As is so much else about this production.

Through Oct. 8 at Gay City Arts, 517 East Pike St., Seattle, 206-860-6969 or tickets.forwardflux.com.

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