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GRACEFULNESS MUST BE SOUGHT

Adrienne Kennedy, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, 2018. Performance view, Theatre for a New Audience at Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Brooklyn, New York, January 17, 2018. Kay (Juliana Canfield) and Chris (Tom Pecinka). Photo: Gerry Goodstein.

IN HE BROUGHT HER HEART BACK IN A BOX, Adrienne Kennedy’s first new play in a decade, the titular heart is a gruesome rumor—one that holds a truth too unwieldy, too excruciating, to be simply received as fact. As one of the most important experimentalists in American theater, the eighty-six-year-old playwright has written twenty-odd works at once cerebral and unhinged, phantasmagoric and lucid, all of which make vivid the brutalities visited by racism on the mind and body of a woman of color. Throughout her work, it is a condition that leaves madness and monsters in its wake.The mind fractures under its duress; selfhood is reduced to hearsay.Her characters are often begotten, and ill-begotten, of characters in the stories they’re told, as well as in those they tell: In Kennedy’s debut, the Obie Award-winning Funnyhouse of a Negro (1964), a girl called Negro-Sarah finds herself

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