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Penumbra review by Julie Congress
August 17, 2009

The lights go down and a voiceover of a little girl asks us to silence our cell phones. She attempts to introduce her cousin, writer/performer Fascious, but ends up humorously stumbling over the pronunciation of his name. It is a delightful, heartfelt opening to an inspiring personal journey depicted through this "One Man Hip Hop Musical."

Fascious is a young man in his early 20s. In the course of an hour, he tells/acts/sings/raps about his childhood in the Bronx, his early passion for drawing, Plato's Allegory of the Cave, his father's imprisonment, his first love, the rich Puerto Rican culture and America's injustices to the country, his grandfather's death, a handball game that turns into a shooting.

According to Merriam-Webster, a penumbra is a "space of partial illumination (as in an eclipse)...something that covers, surrounds, or obscures." Everything Fascious raps about is that penumbra. It is what covers and defines who he is. Is a person only what others see and perceive them to be? Every time Fascious "sings," the poetic words and images spurting from his mouth and soul say otherwise.

He glows with self-acceptance and inspiration. He is like a recent convert—full of belief and passion, spreading the message that you can define who you are. You are not just shaped by nature and nurture. Yes, the outside world, your childhood, your family mold who you are—but at the end of the day you can be the person you want to be, by embracing the penumbra and building from it.

Directed by Shidan Majidi, this is a terrific motivational show, particularly for high school students. Cristian Castillo's video projections—from photographs to whimsical children's drawings—underscore simply but effectively the action. My only suggestions for the future life of this piece would be to further differentiate, physically and vocally, the characters and to tighten the small gaps between sections. It is not easy to bare one's soul on the stage yet Fascious bravely, generously, and creatively does just so.