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Citizens Market

a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Cori Thomas

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 5283

SHOWING : May 18, 2018 - June 24, 2018

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Moving, funny, uplifting!

A good small supermarket has everything its neighborhood needs, including a charming cast of characters behind the counter. CITIZENS MARKET follows a hopeful group of immigrants as they form an unlikely family, working to master the ups and downs of language, love, and staying afloat in their new world.

Store manager Jesus (El Salvador), timid newcomer Akosua (Ghana), best employee Ciata (Sierra Leone) and homeless older couple Bogdan and Morfina (Romanian) discover new possibilities and restock their dreams amidst the aisles of cat food and canned goods. Full of laughter and life, this comedy-drama celebrates an ever-shifting and eclectic America.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jennifer Acker
Director Lisa Adler
Director Jeff Adler
Ciata Cynthia D. Barker
Morfina/Juliana Carolyn Cook
Bogdan Allan Edwards
Jesus Cristian Gonzalez
Akosua Jasmine Thomas
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REVIEWS

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Super Union
by playgoer
Monday, June 4, 2018
4.0
El Salvadoran Jesus (Cristian Gonzalez) runs Super Union, a small supermarket in NYC. He carefully verifies the documented status of all his employees -- Ciata (Cynthia D. Barker) from Sierra Leone, Akosua (Jasmine Thomas) from Ghana, Bogdan (Allan Edwards) and Morfina (Carolyn Cook) from Romania, and eventually Juliana (Carolyn Cook again) from Ireland. From this set-up, we know that INS troubles will figure into the plot, and it’s also clear that cultural differences will also play a part. At its heart, though, the play is about the personal relationships that these characters forge as human beings.

Cori Thomas’ script creates well-defined characters, generally charting the path of new immigrant and new employee Akosua, but giving all characters (except Juliana) substantial parts to play. We come to care about all these characters and the troubles they face. The seven-years-later final scene, in which the Super Union has become Citizens Market, gives us a happy ending unanticipated from the conditions in effect seven years before. "Citizens Market" engages the audience’s attention and entertains throughout, while shining a sometimes rose-colored light on the immigrant experience.

The physical production at Horizon Theatre Company features a monolithic set by Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, representing the interior of part of a small supermarket, with goods for sale on the ground level. A break room is a few steps up stage left, and a manager’s office is higher up, up center. Three tiny cashier stations take up the foreground. Kathryn Muse’s props (including a LOT of donated packaged goods) fill up the space. Some of the action takes place in the street in front of the supermarket, but the tiny band of gray surrounding the linoleum floor of the interior does not do a good job of representing this, especially when action spills back nearly into the cashier stations.

Mary Parker’s lighting design works well to highlight the action, but could lose the blue special effect used late in the intermissionless show. Amy L. Levin’s sound design does a fine job with phone rings, but other sounds are played at too subtle a level. Is that someone’s cell phone playing endlessly in the audience, or some sort of extraneous background music effect? Is that thunder outside we hear, or a thunder sound effect accompanied by the nearly inaudible sound of raindrops? The volume of actors’ speech is also problematic at times, with directors Jeff Adler, Jennifer Alice Acker, and Lisa Adler apparently not emphasizing projection to the actors involved in quiet conversations.

Costumes by Dr. L. Nyrobi Moss work well enough to insert a bit of ethnic flavor into the proceedings without going overboard. Dialect coaching by Ibi Owalabi and Cara Reid also gives that ethnic flavor. No accents are impenetrable, although at low volumes some speech can be a bit difficult to hear, let alone understand.

Performances are at a high level of competence throughout. Ms. Barker, Mr. Gonzalez, and especially Mr. Edwards give believable, nuanced performances. Ms. Thomas grows nicely as central character Akosua ("Sunday" in her native language), but the artificiality of the script in having her unable to shout what registers are free diminishes the believability of her character somewhat. Ms. Cook does a wonderful job (as always) of distinguishing the two characters she plays, but the actor-y infirmity she gives to the character of Morfina doesn’t ring particularly true. She’s totally competent as Morfina, but doesn’t seem to inhabit the role. As Juliana, she’s a delight.

Having three directors usually indicates trouble in a production, especially when only one director is ultimately given credit in the program. Here, all three are credited, making it appear that co-founders Jeff and Lisa Adler were keeping a close watch on Jennifer Alice Acker in her inaugural Horizon directing job. The only directorial missteps in evidence are lack of projection by some actors and in establishing the outside wall boundary of the store (due perhaps to the Curley-Clay sisters’ installation of shelves in front of the manager’s office instead of partially under it).

"Citizens Market" is an enjoyable evening of theatre, devoid of the preachy quality of some of Horizon’s offerings. Cori Thomas’ script perhaps veers into silliness at times, but there’s plenty of heart in the story, with foreshadowing nicely setting up what will later occur. After experiencing multiple box office issues in attempting to attend this production, I enjoyed "Citizens Market" a great deal more than I was anticipating.
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