REVIEW: ‘DAHOMEY WARRIORS’ HAS COMPELLING STORY, HIGHLY THEATRICAL MOMENTS – AND A COMMUNICATION ISSUE

Posted By Christine Dolen | February 16, 2022 at 9:37 PM | WWW.ARTBURST.COM

The characters played by Toddra Brunson and Aixa Kendrick are ready for battle in M Ensemble’s production of “The Dahomey Warriors.” (Photo/Christa Ingraham)

The works of Layon Gray have been an inspiring fit for Miami’s M Ensemble ever since the 50-year-old company inaugurated its new home at Liberty City’s Sandrell Rivers Theater with the playwright’s “Kings of Harlem” in 2017.

That production of the piece about members of the Harlem Renaissance Black pro basketball team circa 1939 won several key Carbonell Awards, and it led to the company staging Gray’s “Meet Me at the Oak” (a family-inspired play about racism set in the mid-1950s) in 2019 and “Cowboy” (about a Black 19th-century U.S. marshal) in 2021.

Gray has now returned to M Ensemble with a Black History Month production of his play “The Dahomey Warriors.” First staged in 2017 under the title “Black Sparta” in New York, the play was also done at 2017’s National Black Theatre Festival and at a Pittsburgh theater in 2018.

Rechristened “The Dahomey Warriors,” the play is, like so much of Gray’s work, steeped in history. It was inspired by a regiment of fierce women soldiers who fought in the West African kingdom of Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin) from the 17th century to the end of the 19th century. . . .

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