Four terrifically committed performances grace Cynthia G. Robinson's Ascension, an intelligent drama set on an antebellum plantation in central Alabama.
On the night before slaves Ruth (Annie Lee Moffett) and Jacob (Cezar Williams) are to jump the broom, Jacob has doubts about his impending marriage. He's not sure if he can accept that Master Carlisle (Greg Homison) used Ruth sexually for many years. Ruth's largest concern is whether she will be able to bear Jacob's children, as she has had to repeatedly abort pregnancies with the help of Mathilda, another slave (Richarda Abrams) on the Carlisle plantation.
Peppered with spirituals (intoned marvelously by Moffett and Williams), Ascension paints a picture of both hypocritical and devout faith within a story that verges on but never becomes soap opera. Although several longish scenes and Petronia Paley's sometimes overly leisurely direction threaten to derail the play, Ascension ultimately touches deeply.
Presented by Robinson Williams Productions as part of the New York International Theatre Festival at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St., NYC. Aug. 9-21. Remaining performances: Wed., Aug. 13, 8:45 p.m.; Fri., Aug 15, 2 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 16, 6:45 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 21, 6:45 p.m. (212) 279-4488 or (866) 468-7619 or www.fringenyc.org.