Review: ‘Word Becomes Flesh’ at Theater Alliance at Anacostia Playhouse

The Word, in spiritual parlance, is the creative power of God made audible and visible through His Son. It is the energy of the divine dynamic made manifest through Self-revelation. True to principle, Word Becomes Flesh is a creatively powerful flow of self-revelatory narratives from a young black father to his unborn son. This viscerally raw production projects the inner lives of black men as it embodies the Black Experience in syncopated hip hop movement, music, and the searing monologues of playwright Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s poetically divine genius.

Justin Weaks, Chris Lane, Clayton Pelham, Jr., Gary L. Perkins III, and Louis E. Davis. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Directed by the award-winning Psalmayene 24, Word Becomes Flesh is the kickoff production of the Word Becomes Action Festival, a series of new plays which runs September 11 through October 9 at the Anacostia Playhouse. The festival’s goal is to present local artists, researchers and non-profits together in conversational community workshops to encourage tangible action and positive change as it explores the diversity of the African Diaspora.

What does it mean to be a black man in the 21st century? Word Becomes Flesh, an encore production of the Theater Alliance, responds by totally embracing black masculinity in a shattering performance of the spoken word of hip hop culture. Its over-the-top testosterone slam dunks and power punches as it empowers the black man of today, while giving hope to the future generations of everyone. It uses the power of the word in a theatrical experience that is, ironically, almost indescribable.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph is a three-time Grand Slam winner in the National Poetry Slam in performance poetry. His brilliant Word Becomes Flesh, featuring dramaturgical compositions by Khalil Anthony and Dahlak Brathwaite, is a stunning hour-long emotional wave of rebellious defiance and bad-ass cool performed by an equally bad-ass cool ensemble with Louis E. Davis, Chris Lane, Clayton Pelham, Jr., Gary L. Perkins III, and Justin Weaks.

(Foreground): Louis E. Davis; (Back Row): Clayton Pelham, Jr., Gary L. Perkins, III; (Crouched): Chris Lane, Justin Weaks. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Word Becomes Flesh conjures up the black man’s haunts from the past and present while giving hope to his dreams. It births new life through the contractions and pain of fear as it vanquishes the black man’s vulnerability in a world of ignorance, hatred, and racism. It uses the power of lust and the sexual healing of a woman’s touch to slay the monsters and conquer the demons of the black man’s rich but scarred birthright. It feels its way to the center.

The combustible male energy of Word Becomes Flesh required nothing more from scenic design (Ethan Sinnott) than its bare black box set with three simple platforms.

The smooth, sinewy choreography (Tony Thomas II) of Word Becomes Flesh seemed to stretch the emotional muscles of its narrative through movement. The blaring rhythmic verse of hip music overlaid with the baby-making dynamism of R&B added a too-hot sound (Nick tha Ida) to a red-hot production.

The ensemble of this five-time Helen Hayes Award winning production is the original cast from its 2016 debut. Louis E. Davis, Chris Lane, Clayton Pelham Jr., Gary L. Perkins III and Justin Weaks are gifted actors who attest to the wealth of local theatrical talent in the DMV. They have to be seen to be believed. They are that good.

Strong, proud, and funny but message-laden, Word Becomes Flesh is a must-see if you missed it the first time. If you did see it last year, I am sure you would agree this show is a total winner worth a second look. And after every performance of Word Becomes Flesh, there will be a talk-back discussion that is sure to insure that we all Stay Woke.

Running Time: One hour, with no intermission.

Word Becomes Flesh plays through October 8, 2017 at Theater Alliance performing at the Anacostia Playhouse – 2020 Shannon Place, SE, in Washington DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 241-2539, or purchase them online.


  1. For a fly & bougy North Philly chick, you nailed the essence of the ‘Father Hunger Generation’ of young black men who often lack access to any positive role models of men who love and take care of their families!

    BAD ASS COOL indeed!


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