Lou Harry’s Engine 31 review: Cry Old Kingdom

imgresIn Jeff Augustin’s Cry Old Kingdom, Edwin (Andy Lucien) is an artist believed dead by the oppressive Haitian government while his full-of-life wife, Judith (Natalie Paul), yearns for revolution. Life gets more complicated for the couple when Edwin encounters a young man, Henri (Jonathan Majors), collecting wood to build a boat to escape to America. Edwin makes a deal with Henri: Secrecy in exchange for modeling duties.

As one would expect, interpersonal drama collides with national politics as each of the three characters struggle toward freedom in different ways. But the revelations and plot developments aren’t given enough time to simmer. Would-be cathartic moments are muted and unclear. (In the lobby afterwards, I overheard a few audience members who were confused as to what exactly had happened.) The play seems underpopulated, leaving me wondering what Cry Old Kingdom would feel like with a cast as large as, say, Lynn Nottage’s Ruined (another play about survival under brutal political conditions).  And the play’s final moments, involving the retelling of a dream, feels like a placeholder awaiting a better dramatic solution.

Augustin is clearly a writer of talent. But there’s still work to be done. Cry Old Kingdom cries out for a larger canvas in order to be fully realized.

Cry Old Kingdom
Through April 7
By Jeff Augustin. Directed by Tom Dugdale. Scenic Designer: Daniel Zimmerman. Costume Designer: Lorraine Venberg. Co-Lighting Designers: Russell H. Champa and Dani Clifford. Sound Designer: Benjamin Marcum. Stage Manager: Stephen Horton. Dramaturg: Hannah Rae Montgomery. Casting: Harriet Bass. Cast: Jonathan Majors as Henri Marx, Andy Lucien as Edwin, and Natalie Paul as Judith.

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