Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

The Art of Longing
Cleveland Public Theatre
Review by Mark Horning | Season Schedule

Greg White, India Nicole Burton, Nailah Mathews
and Kevin D. Marr II

Photo by Steve Wagner
In reading the pre-show information for the Cleveland Public Theatre production of Lisa Langford's The Art of Longing, one learns that the play follows the lives of three characters "whose secrets mask deeply held yearnings that manifest in fantastical abilities and anatomical switch-ups." It When the play begins, that logic truly comes off the rails as realization dawns.

Kreesha (Nailah Mathews), Grady (Greg White), and Samir (India Nicole Burton) are third-shift security guards at the Cleveland Museum of Art guarding priceless works of art. Kreesha arrives late to work as she is arguing with her boyfriend on her cell phone. Older guard Grady notices that she is limping and ends up amputating her foot—but not to worry, as she ends up growing a new one.

Later, Kreesha goes into labor at work, and Grady and Samir deliver the baby. Since Samir is the one who brought her to the Cleveland Clinic, he is assumed to be the father. While at the Clinic, Kreesha has her uterus stolen by a barren doctor who in return gives the young woman the heart she never had. The fourth character is White Man (Kevin D. Marr II), a black actor in a white suite on short stilts who dances and conjures spells over the others.

The entire eighty minutes of stage time is a loose collection of poetry, dialogue, avant guarde performance art, and interpretative dance. For even regular patrons of CPT, this work will be a challenge to understand. In the program, director Jimmie Woody says, "The play allows for splinters of information to amalgamate as a collage of imagery, language, action and sensation"—or as some would call it, "psycho babble."

As for the acting, it is well presented by the cast. The problem is in the incongruity of the work itself. The main three characters play multiple roles, sometimes of the opposite sex while switching male and female organs around.

While one must admire Cleveland Public Theatre's mission of bringing forth finished works of local playwrights writing about local subjects, this one falls so far from reality as to be disturbing. Sometimes too much is just that.

For those interested in a short trip into the absolutely bizarre, Cleveland Public Theatre's The Art of Longing will be on stage through November 18, 2017. Tickets may be purchased online at, by phone at 216-631-2727, or at the box office at 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.

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