Taking a serious and frightening issue such as climate change and turning it into a thought-provoking, heartwarming, and overall entertaining show is no small feat. Graziella Jackson’s new play, “The Wilting Point,” certainly rises to the challenge. Audiences are confronted with many of the stark realities of the world we live in today. Beyond climate change and global warming, Jackson dives into the plight of the unheard voices of the world; she examines the ofttimes ludicrousness of the billionaire space race, as well as the prevalence and attendant dangers of social media. Jackson is not afraid of using her own voice up on that stage to make her point in a bold and provocative way.
…thought-provoking, heartwarming, and overall entertaining…compelling direction…The actors all take their cues and deftly run with them.
“The Wilting Point” centers on podcaster Mina Melo (Beverlixe Jean-Baptiste). A journalist and writer, Melo wants desperately to tell the stories of Tuca (Sally Ann Flores), her son, Udo (Gabriel Alejandro), and his daughter, River (Sophia Colón Roosevelt). They are a family who for seven generations have fought to keep their farm and their land alive. Located in Sangre de Cristo Valley in Colorado, Tuca’s hacienda is a vital and thriving character in this play as much as the humans inhabiting the stage. The problem is water is becoming scarce. And no one wants to listen. Enter, Mina Melo.
Mina is working with a streaming company, owned by a behemoth media agency, to document the family’s plight. But as can be expected, when corporate greed trumps human need, Mina’s course is far from a smooth one. Meanwhile, River, the fiercely passionate fifteen-year-old who clearly sees the danger and darkness that lay ahead for the planet lest something drastic be done, emerges as the Greta Thunberg stand-in for the Sangre de Cristo Valley. Her story is an intense and important one to follow here.
Jackson’s play under Danielle A. Drakes compelling direction has a way of bringing you in and making you feel like a part of Tuca’s family, as well as Mina’s conundrum. The inherent warmth and free-spiritedness of Drake’s vision lends itself well to fleshing out the many layers of emotion with which the script is imbued. The actors all take their cues and deftly run with them. Jean-Baptiste’s no-nonsense Mina Melo is the consummate journalist trying to get a hold of her too-soft heart. Jean-Baptiste quite wonderfully presents the many faces of professional (and personal) conflict. Colón Roosevelt’s River is perhaps meant as the brasher and fearless counterpoint to Mina. The actor’s commitment to the play’s more thoughtful moments is truly inspiring.
Udo says very little throughout most of the performance, and yet somehow, Alejandro still manages to convey the pain, heartbreak, and hopefulness inherent to the character—even in the long silences. Judy Lewis as Finley, Mina’s boss, brings the much-needed light-hearted moments. Her delivery is laugh-out-loud captivating. Silas Gordon Bigham as the villainous billionaire Max does a brilliant job of making the audience’s collective skin crawl.
It is, though, Flores’ Tuca who feels like the foundational voice here, guiding theatergoers into the trials and travails of what her people face and, ultimately, what the world faces. It is because of her stubbornness that we learn; it is through her disappointment that we understand; and it is by virtue of her tears that we also come to weep for the direction in which things are heading. Even the simple yet incredibly meaningful way in which Flores smokes a cigarette whilst singing “Moon River” evokes centuries of stories that have shaped lives and cultures.
Matthew J. Keenan keeps things simple with set design and yet the series of geometric shapes, when paired with Zavier Augustus Lee Taylor’s projections, suggest a vastness that perfectly encompasses that nexus between the old world and the new. Alberto Segarra’s lighting design and Thom Woodward’s sound design also speak to this dichotomy—that curious space between ages past and all those future unknowns. Perhaps that is the question on many minds upon leaving the theatre…How do we preserve and reconcile that which has come before with whatever it is the future has in store?
Running Time: Two hours with a 15 minute intermission.
“The Wilting Point” runs through April 30, 2023 at The Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here, call 202-265-3767 or go in person at the Box Office, which opens on the day of the show one hour prior to the performance. Masks are optional but encouraged for all visitors.