photo by Johanna Austin
Fairview seems like a nice family sitcom, maybe a half hour network one from the late ’80s or early ’90s. Ah, nostalgia. And in this particular episode, we’re watching the chaos and hilarity of planning a birthday dinner for Grandma. Mom, Beverly (Melayne Finister) and dad, Dayton (Lindsay Smiling) lovingly bicker over table settings and root vegetables. Daughter Keisha (Brett Ashley Robinson) excels in school and extra curricular activities. Fun Aunt Jasmine (Jaylene Clark Owens) comes over for the party and brings wine! They have a beautiful home, a typical family dynamic and are a lot of fun to watch as they build up to making everything perfect for Grandma.
And then, suddenly, Keisha notices that a lot of things seem off. Really off. The switch is flipped and the TGIF vibe is gone. Four new characters appear, looking into the house as if the family (did I mention that Frasier family is Black?) is on display for all to see. These new characters, they’re White and they find this family hilarious by pointing out so many awful stereotypes and making cringeworthy comments. They discuss what race they would be if they could choose and why. They go on and on…with character Jimbo (Matteo Scammell) delivering a horrifying rant about what he would do if he were in control of the story. Things are very uncomfortable now.
In the final act, we’re back with the Frasier family as they gather for Grandma’s party. She comes down the stairs…and now it’s hard to say much else without potential spoilers. The Frasiers really don’t seem in control of their own story. Their story, their lives are being told by people outside of their family dynamic (and race) that just always make assumptions. We all know this happens all the time. In the media, in real life. To our neighbors.
Fairview breaks down walls. You, the audience, need to help break them down. This is a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Jackie Sibblies. It’s directed by recent Pulitzer Prize winner James Ijames.
Ijames. I hope you see this show for yourself and understand why Keisha literally speaks to the audience. Afterwards, you should receive an email from Wilma and Fairview Dramaturg Mariah Ghant with resources that extend what you’ve just seen and what you can do. You can find those here.
If you’re walking by the Wilma or see ads on social media, you may think that Fairview is the name of the family or their town or the street they live on. But if you take some time to sit down in the theatre, watch what unfolds, and even get involved- you’ll see Fairview is so much more.