There is only one performance left of Nize It by Inferno Productions at the 2016 SummerWorks Festival. You don’t want to miss it. Nize It was created and is performed by students from Dante Alighieri Academy in Toronto. They offer a fast-paced, moving, and often very funny take on the difficult challenges many Black teenagers face in today’s world.
Nize It focuses on two Black teens, Matthew and Ramon, and their day to day interactions with friends, enemies, teachers, and police. Matthew is a talented comic book artist. But his colourful superhero creations, who come to life throughout the play, are clichés of the genre and reflect a world of white privilege. When Ramon enters their world to try to make them over, he faces the same prejudices as in real life.
Matthew seems to be making things work despite living on his own and supporting himself. His brother, Nicholas, however, is dealing drugs. They face violence from police as well as from neighbourhood criminals. They also have to deal with well-meaning but patronizing attempts by teachers and classmates to help them.
The writing in Nize It is powerful, authentic, and in “their language,” as the program says. It’s filled with urban street slang and references to urban youth culture. The program actually provides an Urban Dictionary to help us older folks understand. My teenaged companion had to explain some of the references to me. Even with the dictionary, you might miss some of the rapid-fire dialogue. But the meaning and the passion comes through even if you don’t get every word.
I thought the acting was equally strong. Matthew Worku (Matthew) and Ramon Sursona-Baltazar (Ramon) were a great team, effectively conveying the teasing and genuine affection of male teenage friendship. The Superhero 6 were energetic and hysterically over-the-top in bright-coloured tights. And Kristopher Kassabian’s portrayal of the misguided white president of the Black History Month Committee was gently satirical – funny without being cruel.
My 15-year old guest thought Nize It was great. She said it was a realistic portrayal of the lives of many kids in her Toronto high school. Harsh and hopeful at the same time.
Bravo to the cast and creative team of Nize It. I really enjoyed watching these talented kids and loved everything about the show. Go see it.
Nize It plays at the Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst Street)
- Thursday, August 4, 4:00pm – 5:00pm
- Tuesday, August 9, 7:00pm – 8:00pm
- Friday, August 12, 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Youth Series tickets are $10, Live Art Series ticket prices vary. Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, by phone at 416-320-5779 and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 2-14 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.
Several money saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.
Image provided by SummerWorks.