If I was going to sum up Chinaka Hodge’s new play “Mirrors In Every Corner” currently playing at Intersection for the Arts in one word, I’d say “ambitious.”
I mean that in the best sense, in that “Mirrors” is brave and dares to touch on some of the biggest issues in recent (and not so recent) American and Bay Area history: Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, and the Loma Prieta ’89 earthquake, gentrification of West Oakland…and that’s just a sampling. The play is only 80 minutes, but it is BIG. And beautiful.
Chinaka doesn’t pull any punches, and that’s why I love her. I’m not alone in calling her one of my favorite writers (not “of my generation” but “my favorite writers. period.”). She’s also one of my favorite people. Again, I know I’m not alone in that category. Brilliant & humble, political & hilarious, the play is full Chinaka.
Which means, in case you couldn’t tell by the poster, it’s hella Oakland. The play captures the beauty and the tragedy of this city more than anything I’ve ever read or seen. It should be mandatory viewing for OPD officers and McClymonds freshmen alike.
I don’t wanna ruin the story for anyone going to see it, but if you don’t know, it tells the story of a black family in West Oakland from 1988 to the present. A black family…except the youngest daughter was born white. Duh duh duh.
So when I say ambitious, I mean artistically, how the play goes back and forth between the past and present, the dream world and ‘reality’ in ways that are anything but linear (note the Octavia Butler book that one character is always reading). It’s ambitious politically, refusing to walk the tight rope of acceptable conversations about race and instead burn the whole rope down — while also somehow tying new strands bigger than any one know. And it’s ambitious personally, brave in that I could see Chinaka in each of the 5 characters in the piece. Which is scary, cuz they don’t always do something she might be proud of.
And it’s powerful, cuz I could see myself in all of them too.
The conversations between the brother and sister about code-switching, the ethnic fantasies and nightmares of what your kids are going to look like, the shit-talking that’s more than just shit-talking…it made me think of my own family. Of growing up in DC, and living in Oakland. Of what it means to being white and Jewish. And especially American.
“Mirrors” best moments are in those small conversations, that intimate & inimitable atmosphere of the bid whist card game. Sometimes the play gets too ambitious, and the many political issues and subplots distract from the core. Almost near the end of the show, we get new twists that made me dizzy from everything going on.
But maybe that’s the point. Race, family, the world…these are not linear things. They are round and bumpy. As Chinaka would say, they have hips.
And so do you. So get yours moving and go see the play!
Mirrors in Every Corner plays at Intersection for the Arts through March 21. Go see it. Like…next week. I’ll probably see you there, cuz this is one I wanna see again.
(As a writer, I tend to focus on the writing, but with this much talent in one production, I gotta mention the brilliant artists & collaborators on the piece. The acting is great, especially Margo Hall and Daveed Diggs — they both killed it. My fÃºtbol comrade DJ Treat U Nice provide the right beat for each moment, and my man Evan Bissell brought it all together with his set & art installation. (I want that mural, Evan.) Some dude named Marc Bamuthi Joseph directed it…he was aight too. And if you don’t know Joan Osato…well, she’s the one who makes the magic happen. That’s quite the lineup. Now go support them, support your own mind & heart, and go buy those tickets!)