How many of us have been wronged? Or discovered something shocking about someone we care for? Who has struggled with forgiveness? ...
These are a few of the emotional elements threaded through the La Jolla Playhouse’s world premiere of “The Last Tiger in Haiti,” by Jeff Augustin, directed by Joshua Kahan Brody.
As the play opens, a small shack frame, some rolled-up bedding, and a few boxes illustrate the poverty shared by Haitians Emmanuel (Clinton Roane), Joseph (Reggie D. White), Rose (Brittany Bellizeare), Laurie (Jasmine St. Clair) and Max (Andy Lucien). They are servants to their dreaded master whose house is right behind them, and most have been very abused in many ways.
There’s some chitchat among the group as they listen to the nearby sounds of Kanaval, Haiti’s annual Mardi Gras celebration. After some exchanges (good and bad), one among them begins their story-telling tradition: If someone has a story he/she wants to tell, they say, “krik.” If someone wants to hear the story, they say “krak.”
On this night Rose begins and her story is well received. It sparks some of the others to tell their tales with the intention of making their stories better. Soon the group goes restless and they banter back and forth, making it hard for some to fall asleep. Their Haitian accents sometimes make it difficult to understand what they are saying. However, these are all great actors and actions speak louder than words.
As the audience takes its seats for the second half of the play, big “ahhh’s” fill the air because any traces of Haiti are gone. Instead, the stage has become an upscale apartment in New Your City with a beautiful view.
It’s 16 years past the days of Kanaval in Haiti. Rose lives in the apartment and is engaged. She is somewhat surprised when Max shows up unexpectedly. They reminisce about old times and discuss their changes. She offers him tea, but he’s not interested, which surprises Rose.
Finally Max gets down to why he really came to see Rose. What follows is some answers to the questions posed at the beginning of this review.
IF YOU GO: “The Last Tiger in Haiti,” is on stage through July 24 in the Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre at La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, UCSD campus. Tickets from $20. (858) 550-1010. lajollaplayhouse.org