MNfusion Review: Jungle Theater’s ‘Bars And Measures’ Powerfully Uncomfortable

Ask any artist and they will tell you, a good work of art elicits a reaction. It makes you think. It makes you feel. It is an experience.

Despite a few missteps, the Jungle Theater’s production of “Bars and Measures” does just that.

“Bars And Measures” asks audiences take an unabashed look at their beliefs and decide not only which is the most important, but which drives their moral compass.

Playwright Idris Goodwin tells the story of two brothers – Eric and Bilal. Eric is a classically trained pianist who struggles with living in his brother’s musical shadow. Bilal is a jazz musician who is accused of financially aiding a terrorist operation.

In the beginning of the show, Eric explains that Bilal wasn’t always Bilal. He was born Darryl, and a Christian. In his adult life, Darryl converted to Islam and asked to be called Bilal. As Bilal became more devout, Eric said it became more difficult to accept his older brother’s new religion. When Bilal was arrested after allegedly giving a large sum of money to a terrorist operation, Eric struggles with the ties of family and commitment to faith.

Based on a true story, the script takes a powerful look at how ideas commonly thought to unite us can actually divide us, and the weight we give to what defines us.

Ansa Akyea and Darius Dotch do a beautiful job of playing Bilal and Eric.

The pair has a wonderful chemistry, playing well off each other’s energy. They bicker, talk and laugh with the familiarity of actual brothers.

Akyea does a wonderful job relaying emotion. While Bilal suffers a great deal, few times throughout the show does Akyea use volume as a tactic to show his character’s frustration or anger. This makes the moments he does all the more powerful.

While reserved in his delivery, his words are still dripping with quiet emotion.

Dotch’s performance was unmatched during the show.

His character arguably experienced the most emotional instability, as he struggled with the idea of wht it meant to be loyal to his brother while not agreeing with his beliefs. Thanks to Dotch’s incredible expressiveness through movement and tone, the audience experienced Eric’s journey along with him.

Perhaps the only bit of the show that can be criticized is Taous Clare Khazem as Sylvia.

Sylvia is a classically trained singer that Eric works with and begins to have a romantic connection to. She too is Muslim. During a pivotal scene were Eric learns of Bilal’s alleged crime, Sylvia confronts him about his prejudices against her and Bilal’s religion.

Dotch is brilliant in the scene, bringing strong energy to Eric’s outburst. His anger, resentment and disappointment toward Bilal are palpable.

As the emotion builds, however, Khazem brought the scene to a halt with flat affect and no energy.

This moment was particularly upsetting as it was the crux of what the show.

However, one mediocre performance was not enough to permeate the whole show, and thanks to Akyea and Dotch’s strong performances the show was successful.

“Bars And Measures” is thus still able to leave audience members questioning how each of their believes influences their actions, and which believes define us more than others.

Bars And Measures” is open now and runs through Oct. 9. Tickets cost $35 to $48. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the Jungle Theater online.

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