THOUGHTS: Carnaval at The National Black Theatre

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W. Tre’ Davis, Bjorn DuPaty, and Gabriel Lawrence (Photo Credit: Christine Jean Chambers)

The National Black Theatre invites you to a private room inside Raheem Monroe’s Club Carnaval, a Brazilian themed night club. The lights, pumping music and the fog machines create an ambiance of a place where good, albeit debauched, times are had.  Projections are used on the back wall and the room panels to show video recordings and visuals of Brazilian beach and night life. The very clean, minimal set easily transforms from the Brooklyn club, to JFK, to the 3 bedroom condo in Rio, to another location that I’ll leave undisclosed to avoid spoiling the show.

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W. Tre’ Davis and Bjorn DuPaty (Photo Credit: Christine Jean Chambers)

Carnaval (written by playwright Nikkole Salter and directed by Awoye Timpo) is about a trio of friends from Brooklyn who go on a trip to Rio de Janeiro to honor their friend on the anniversary of his death. Demetrius (Bjorn DuPaty) and Raheem (Gabriel Lawrence) have promised to look after their dead friend’s younger brother Jalani (W. Tre’ Davis), but their friendship is put to the test as they delve deep into the world of sex tourism, drinking, and, ultimately, too much fun in Brazil. They have to weather a pretty tough storm, but you’ll have to see the show to find out if they make it.

Reasons to Go:

  • Bjorn DuPaty, W. Tre’ Davis, Gabriel Lawrence command the stage in this 3-hander. These actors capture your attention from beginning to end as the tension of the play ebbs and flows until it ultimately culminates in an epic crescendo that leaves you quite flabbergasted.
  • The throwback references to 1990s pop culture, fashion, music, and lexicon as we venture back to 1996 with the 3 friends when they make their game-changing trip to Rio. Tupac was closing in on his final year, cell phones were showing up, and FUBU was in. Millennials (especially NYC Millennials) will appreciate it for sure.
  • The play is a crash course on the world of international Sex Tourism through the lens of unwitting participants as well as a well-versed expert.  Well, they’re more in denial than they are unwitting, but you’ll certainly see the damage it can cause. It is an eye-opening experience on the harsh realities of legalized prostitution and how men see women. While the seduction of that world is made abundantly clear, the repercussions are pretty devastating
  • The play addresses some interesting topics about race, ex-slaves and the history of Carnaval, and how American people of color are perceived in South America. As Raheem puts it, ” It ain’t no different here. You all exotic ‘cause you American, but […] up and see how quick you just Black again.” If anything, it’s certainly a cautionary tale of what not to do while vacationing in South America, black or otherwise.

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    Gabriel Lawrence, Bjorn DuPaty, and W. Tre’ Davis (Photo Credit: Christine Jean Chambers)


Who Should Go:  Adults


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W. Tre’ Davis (Photo Credit: Christine Jean Chambers)


  • Seating is on 3 sides, but the center section offers the best view.
  • It’s general admission, so make sure to get there early to get a good seat.
  • Go to the restroom before you come or before the show starts (there are only 3 stalls in the ladies’).
  • Get there early to check out the interactive lobby exhibit – A Reclamation: Venus Hottentot to T.H.O.T
  • There is a talkback directly following each performance.
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Gabriel Lawrence (Photo Credit: Christine Jean Chambers)

Themes: Sex Tourism, Brotherhood, Betrayal, Brazil, Forgiveness

Advisory: Very strong language is used, so definitely keep the kids at home. Ladies, especially, gird your loins. The language used to reference women throughout the play may be difficult to digest. There is use of fog in the space during the pre-show.

Show Information: The National Black Theatre presents the US premiere of Carnaval through November 16 at The National Black Theatre, 2031 Fifth Ave. between 125th and 126th Street. Visit The National Black Theatre website for more information.

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