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The Missing Face

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Presented by the National Black Touring Circuit at the Henry Street Settlement Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand St., NYC, April 25-May 27.

"You belong to the white world where you came from," asserts the African elder to the African-American woman who arrives in his village with an idealized view of Mother Africa welcoming her with open arms.

This conflict gets the full treatment in Osonye Tess Onwueme's drama, "The Missing Face," when Ida Bee (Stephanie Berry) journeys to Africa with her teenage son, Amaechi (Tobias Truvillion), in search of his father. The elder, Odozi, played with nobility and consummate power by William J. Marshall, is overbearing and speaks too often in euphemisms, but makes an important point. His own adult son longs for the "cool and fast" life of the city.

Berry and Marshall are the captivating attractions at the heart of this important drama. Her Ida remains gracious and respectful in spite of Odozi's apparent disdain. It is not until he learns that her son's father is Prince Momah (the skillful Kim Sullivan) that he changes his tone.

The flashback scene where Momah and Ida Bee first meet in Chicago reveals how the aggressive but naïve Ida Bee seduces Momah and offers her apartment to help support him while studying at the university. Unfortunately, Momah soon deserts her and returns to Africa.

It is no surprise to learn that Momah also longs for an Africa "without a past, but a new, glittering present." Momah's self-hatred conflicts sharply with Ida Bee's embrace of her African heritage. In a vengeful and angry act, he evicts her from the village, forcing her into the surrounding wilderness, but he eventually yields to the power of a son's love.

Patricia White's straightforward direction makes the former lovers' confrontation one of the most enlightening aspects of the play. In smaller roles, Angeline Butler as Nebe engages Odozi in conversation that challenges his ideas of male supremacy, while David Wright doubles as Afuzue and Griot.

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