Long-buried secrets rise again in Lyric’s ‘The Light’

By Rich Fahey

Dominic Carter and Yewande Odetoyinbo in Lyric Stage’s “The Light.” Photo: Mark S. Howard

BOSTON – A young man gets on bended knee and offers a ring to a woman he has known for two years. She accepts! All is right with the world.

The opening moments of Loy A. Webb’s “The Light” at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston are indeed light and bright, but it doesn’t last for long.

Bit by bit, darkness descends on the Black couple as long-buried secrets bubble to the surface, and the revelations threaten to destroy their love and the relationship they both have come to treasure.

Rashad (Dominic Carter) is a Chicago firefighter and former standout football player who lives with his daughter and mother in the home he bought.

He is in love with Genesis (Yewande Odetoyinbo), a charter school principal, and the play takes place in her chic Hyde Park apartment. Kudos to Baron E, Pugh for his well-appointed, detailed set design of a living room and dining area complete with art of iconic cultural and political figures. It takes advantage of every inch of the theater’s intimate  stage.

It is the two-year anniversary of the start of the couple’s relationship, an occasion that calls for gift-giving, and a season ticket for the Chicago Bears pro football team delights Rashad.

After the surprise of the ring and her beaming acceptance, Rashad also has another gift for Genesis: Tickets that night for a concert featuring one of their favorite local performers. Alas, the benefit concert has been organized by a rapper named Rashif,  whose music Rashad likes while Genesis finds his lyrics misogynistic.

Rashad comes to Rashif’s defense but Genesis’s opposition to the performer seems to go far beyond his lyrics. It seems to be intensely personal.

Rashad also has stories to tell of a failed relationship and a scurrilous accusation that scuttled his dreams of a pro football career.

Once the words sexual assault and rape enter the fray, there is no going back. Throw in issues of race and gender and the shouting grows louder as the divide between the two widens.

Director Jacqui Parker, an acclaimed actress, writer and director, makes her Lyric Stage directorial debut, casting two dynamic actors.

The vibe that is created when the casting is right allows the actors to start with a believability factor that puts them ahead of the game from the start.

Parker has given her cast the space they need to let their characters develop, but she also has a handle on the pacing of the 70-minute piece, especially when the dialogue becomes white-hot and the two characters take turns dropping bombs on each other.

Odetoyinbo can quite simply do it all when it comes to theater, whether it’s the “aging up” to play the mother of a pioneering Black singer in “Breath & Imagination” at The Lyric  or dancing and singing up a storm in Lyric’s “The Wiz” or SpeakEasy Stage’s recent hit production of “Once on this Island.”

Carter, who was Sebastian in Lyric’s “Twelfth Night,” has been steadily building a solid local resume that includes roles such as Dr. Martin Luther King in “The Mountaintop.”

The question that must ultimately be answered: Can love survive such a series of seismic shocks?

Loy may eventually leave that question unanswered, but the arduous and harrowing journey the characters take along the way is powerful and thought-provoking.

The Lyric Stage Company of Boston production of “The Light.” Written by Loy A. Webb. Directed by Jacqui Parker. Scenic Design is by Baron E. Pugh. Costume Design by Jez Insalaco. Lighting Design by Elmer Martinez. Sound Design by Owen Meadows. At the Lyric Stage Company of Boston through June 26. Lyricstage.com.