Emergence-See!: Michal Daniel
October 26, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

A slave ship rises up out of the Hudson River, right in front of the Statue of Liberty, in Daniel Beaty’s sassy, fast-paced lesson on the importance of history. This supernatural event engulfs all of New York — reporters, Nigerian immigrants, and ghetto girls among them — but it really upsets the lives of Rodney and Freddie, brothers who are horrified to see their elderly father, a Shakespearean scholar, get on board and confront the ship’s ghostly crew. All of these characters, and plenty more — including a Militant Negro and a High Class Colored Woman — are portrayed by Beaty, an accomplished shape-shifter who morphs from one personality to another at warp speed. The champion poetry slammer also impersonates several African-American poets conjuring incantatory rhymes and rhythms. Beaty’s easy way with words is both the show’s glory and its weakness: What promises to be a gripping story turns out to be a series of set pieces touching on familiar issues (black identity, children with HIV, the epidemic of missing fathers); comedy and character are finally overtaken by oratory. Still, if Beaty is preaching to the choir, they respond with gusto, and if the piece has more energy than inspiration, it’s still a good energy. (Tickets: Publictheater.org or 212-967-7555)

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