Nikkole Salter (left) and Danai Gurira are the writers and stars of the play.
Nikkole Salter (left) and Danai Gurira are the writers and stars of the play. James Leynse
The two-woman show In the Continuum began as a graduate school acting project. Now the off-Broadway show has been named one of the ten best plays of the year by The New York Times.
Nikkole Salter and Danai Gurira, who met at New York University, are the play's authors and actresses. Both play black women with HIV, as well as other characters. Salter is Nia, a teenage African-American girl. Gurira is Abigail Murambe, a newsreader for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. She's pregnant with a second child and having marital problems.
The material sounds grim, but Times drama critic Charles Isherwood says it's anything but a depressing experience.
"It's not a dirge. It's not a lecture," he says. "It's not preachy at all."
The play takes place over a 48-hour period in which both protagonists, living continents apart, discover that the men in their lives have infected them with HIV. Each goes on a personal journey, encountering various characters and cultural bias, as they try to come to grips with their diagnosis and sense of isolation.
After Salter and Gurira graduated from NYU, they presented In the Continuum in places,big and small, from the United Nations, where they won a Global Tolerance Award, to a tiny theater in the South Bronx. The Bronx is where Andrew Leynse, the artistic director of Primary Stages, first saw it.
He decided to present a longer, revamped version at Primary Stages. After rave reviews it moved to the Perry Street Theatre in Greenwich Village, where it has been selling out. It is scheduled to run until Feb. 18. The next stop is Hirare, Zimbabwe. Next September, it will begin a tour of the United States, with stops in Washington, D.C., Cincinnati and Los Angeles.