Theatre Review - Sunset Baby

A man stands alone, filming himself, and offers a complex, slightly surreal definition of “fatherhood”. He is Kenyatta Shakur (Ben Onwukwe), a former revolutionary in the Black Liberation Movement, who has come to New York to find and reconnect with his estranged daughter Nina (Michelle Asante). The video recordings are for her. His brief monologues to camera set the tone for Dominique Morisseau’s play – a powerful and moving meditation on love, loss and regret.

Kenyatta’s wife, also once an iconic figure in the late 1970s, has recently died leaving Nina the love letters she wrote to her husband when he was a political prisoner. Apparently these relics of a past era, sought after by academics and fans alike, are now worth a fortune and Kenyatta is desperate to get his hands on them.

Nina wants nothing to do with her father. She deeply resents Kenyatta for deserting her mother and blames him for the drug addiction that eventually killed her. Impoverished, Nina was forced to leave college and make her own way. She now makes a living by hustling with her boyfriend Damon (Chu Omambala), dealing in drugs and armed robbery. Damon, desperate to make enough money to get them “up-out-the-hood”, tries to exploit Kenyatta but Nina has her own ideas.

SUNSET BABY, the final production in Christopher Haydon’s inaugural season about rebels and revolutionaries, is less overtly political than the preceding two plays. With more of a domestic focus, the real drama lies in the explosive relationship between father and daughter. Running at 110-minutes, without an interval, Charlotte Westenra’s assured and well-paced direction does not stop this from feeling overlong. However, the performances are top notch, Morisseau has a fine ear for dialogue and the final confrontation scene between Nina and her father will have you on the edge of your seat.

Originally published by Theatreworld