My mother’s alive and well, but Both And (A Play About Laughing While Black) caused me to contemplate her death. Carolyn Ratteray’s mesmerizing and magical fable about the death of a mother so beautifully presented a vision of transition from life to afterlife that it felt like a pre-comforting.
To say Both And is a play about a mother’s death is too reductive, as is calling it a solo show. In this world premiere, reopening Boston Court post-pandemic, Ratteray plays two key roles, represents others, and narrates. She is both Teayanna and a clown-goddess who has been trapped undersea in the Atlantic since the time of the Middle Passage. The stage feels full with just her presence.
The red-nosed sacred being, whose name was lost during the time of slavery, represents Black Joy. She helps with the crossing over of the dying, as well as sharing the healing power of laughter with those left behind. Her emphasis on the silly meant she had to take a back seat to the forces of survival. But over the centuries, she has regained her power.
Like A Heated Discussion, a current production from the Robey, Both And honors African-American history and mythology, which both inform and lift up those dealing with the horrors of continued, post-slavery violence.
Andi Chapman directs this unique show, adeptly guiding the ridiculous and the sublime. A giant purse holds all the special items that Teayanna’s mother pulled out to solve problems and spark memories. Ratteray creates an entire world, with the afterlife practically tangible in its nearness.
Generous funding from the LA New Play Project (LANPP) made the production possible.
Both And (A Play About Laughing While Black) plays at Boston Court Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm. Seating is general admission. Running time is about 90 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $39 and may be purchased here or by calling (626) 683-6801. Boston Court is located at 70 N. Mentor Avenue in Pasadena, 91106. Free parking is available behind the theater.