The dictionary defines insidious as "proceeding in a gradual way, but with harmful effects". Playwright Ibn Shabazz's work Insidious certainly follows that line of thinking, with the eponymous title character worming his way into the lives of a engaged couple Kara and Dawud. The play makes allusions to AIDS and to the way homosexuality is looked at in the African American community. But at its heart, it's a pot boiler, a pulpy work that takes a number of twists and turns before resolving itself. The Black Rep's current production is graced with solid performances and direction, and it continues through June 24, 2012.
Dawud is engaged to Kara, and when we first meet them they're haggling over wedding details. But, Dawud is bisexual, a fact he's hidden from Kara, and the minute she leaves for work, he's prowling the park for a pick up. He brings home the aptly named Insidious, and even though his name should have been an instant red flag, they have sex. Kara comes home early, naturally, but suspects nothing, and leaves again. But, Insidious stays, and his veiled threats about possibly having AIDS leaves Dawud cold. He asks him to go, although, rather foolishly, he leaves Insidious alone for a moment, which allows him to snatch Dawud's keys and wallet. He eventually does leave, but comes back, and this time getting him to take off isn't so easily accomplished.
Nic Few is properly menacing as Insidious, living up to his namesake with a splendid performance. Phillip Dixon is also quite good as Dawud, who's a recovering addicts who's adamant about being bisexual and not homosexual. Their interplay is tense, although when Nic Few breaks down the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience, some of that tension is lost in the process. Jacqueline Thompson also does a fine job as Kara, realistically handling her fiancee's news with a mixture of sadness and confusion. SirGabe Ryan Cunningham is Dawud's friend (who's also in recovery) and confidant, and he does nice work as well. Daniel Deshon Hodge rounds out the cast as the flamboyant Tajuan, who's much more comfortable with his sexuality than Dawud is.
Director Ron Himes keeps the action and the pace uptempo for the most part, and he draws good performances from his ensemble. Chris Pickart's scenic design creates a realistic apartment setting, deftly aided by the prop work of Robert van Dillen. Mark Wilson's lighting adds some neat effects that allow us to see Few and Dixon's shadows as they become intimate. Sarita Fellows contributes the costumes, which are good fits for each character.
Insidious is a dark tale that's surprisingly engaging and entertaining. The Black Rep's production of Insidious continues through June 24, 2012 at the Grandel Theatre.