Spanning a 20-year period of tumultuous social change, Seret Scott’s Second Line is the story of two black college students whose lives are shaped by the stormy events of the 1960s and ’70s. Bennie and JoJo are in love, but their commitment is tested by the upheaval of the civil rights movement and Vietnam.
The story chronicles a 20-year love that was certainly tested by time, as the description says, but moreso by conflict. Outwardly by the ones listed above, but more deeply by interpersonal dynamics and differing opinions on their roles in society. Was it more important to be active in achieving change in society or was it more important to keep your head down and rise from within? Is there a greater obligation to oneself or to society? How should one go about satisfying that obligation?
The acting was incredible, performed by two real experts. If you have never had the opportunity to see Erika Rose, who plays JoJo in this story, you are certainly missing out. She is one of the great local actors this city has right now. Rose has about 10,000 emotions she can produce and knows all the subtleties of each one. It’s like watching ballet – the beauty of the performance is stunning and you’re not quite sure how she does it, but she does it incredibly well. Her timing is impeccable and she can make you forget that you are watching actors, allowing you to get completely absorbed in the story.
Jefferson A. Russell, who plays Bennie, did a great job as well. Bennie is well-contained emotionally but often has the appearance of a steam kettle that is about to blow. Pressures build and Bennie keeps it all in. His segmentation of life into different categories – mainly school and work, with JoJo weaving in and out despite his efforts to keep her separate – was wonderfully acted. This role is less emotionally charged than JoJo’s and a person could possibly dismiss it as being an easier one to perform, but that would be a mistake. It is clear to me that Russell worked hard at putting this performance together, working with Rose to create the chemistry and tension that makes it such a believable production.
Second Line is showing at Atlas through 26 October, so be sure to get tickets as soon as possible. As good as this show is, you will not want to miss it. Dinner before the show: try ANM Market Deli at 1363 H St. NW. They have some pretty darned good food there, including a delicious veggie burger made from their own recipe.