Buzzer Sounds Sociopolitical Alarms — Sometimes Too Shrilly


Buzzer, a worthy new play by Tracey Scott Wilson, offers an urban-renewal twist on the we-gotta-get-out-of-this-place play. Although their new neighborhood’s blight is starting to get to them, Jackson (Grantham Coleman) and his girlfriend, Suzy (Tessa Ferrer), can’t just pick up and leave. The couple recently moved to this supposedly up-and-coming Brooklyn block — and they’ve made a moral as well as a capital investment. Jackson, a successful African-American attorney, grew up struggling nearby; his purchase of the spacious new apartment makes a kind of triumphant homecoming. Suzy, who’s white, teaches in a local school and wants to feel closer to the community. But when their old pal Don (Michael Stahl-David) moves in while he gets sober and starts insisting on honesty in all things, long-simmering social tensions come to a boil.

Wilson’s drama makes familiar but important observations about gentrification, white privilege, economics, and gender disparities. (Signs in the Public Theater’s stairwell offer well-intentioned invitations to expand the dialogue, asking: “How Is Your Neighborhood Changing?” and “Who Has the Right to Live on Your Block?”) These thorny problems are, of course, closely linked — a reality that first advances the script but later overwhelms it. In late scenes when the trio reckons with mounting crises, the compounding of issues ends in shouty melodrama instead of political illumination.