My Life in the Concrete Jungle

A cast of women, many from San Francisco Jail No. 8, keeps it real

“I just want to keep it real,” director Rhodessa Jones growls as she paces the stage in an Army fatigue jumpsuit and tribal face paint. For the next two hours she and the large, multiethnic cast of powerful women (many of them inmates from San Francisco Jail No. 8) collaboratively perform bits of their true life stories. While they shout, whisper, and poeticize about drug addiction, abusive husbands, and Mad Dog 20/20, a group of skilled musicians (led by composer Idris Ackamoor) delivers a score that can best be described as beautiful anthems for the disenfranchised. Jones has the skill to identify the forte of each of these women — whether dance, song, monologue, or circus tricks — and to weave in additional talent (young spoken word artist Ise Lyfe is a charismatic marvel; Darron Seales is a pint-sized dancing machine). Some of the performers are (understandably) a little rough around the edges, and there are moments when the collective anger threatens to turn the evening into an extended rant. But Jones is masterful at choreographing this dance between fury and release. She does keep it real — as the primal energy onstage and the police officers guarding the offstage exits prove. — Nathaniel Eaton

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