WASHINGTON, August 23, 2013 – DC’s Theater Alliance kicked off its 11th season last weekend with a new production of Nathan Louis Jackson’s “Broke-ology.” Directed by Candace L. Feldman, Jackson’s play is also the inaugural theater production of Washington’s new Anacostia Playhouse, the newest puzzle piece in the exciting—and growing—arts community growing in Southeast DC.
In Jackson’s play, we meet Ennis (Jacobi Howard), the bitter older brother of a tight knit family of three surviving black men. They live on the edge of poverty in a Kansas City, Kansas tenement flat, rented by his father when they were kids for what they thought would be a five-year lease.
“Broke-ology” embodies the life-philosophy of Ennis, and it serves as his angry mantra to survive. He defines it as the science of being broke while still alive and surviving life on fried bologna sandwiches, a minimum wage job and a barely adequate education.
Fast-forward 20 years later. Younger brother Malcolm (played by Duke Ellington Class of 2004 graduate Marlon Russ) returns from receiving his master’s degree from the University of Connecticut to find his father William’s (G. Alverez Reid’s) life falling apart before his and his brother’s eyes as the ravages of multiple sclerosis (MS) loosen his grip on reality.
Between painkillers and MS meds, William’s only escape is his vintage box of music cassette tapes containing a playlist of Motown hits by the Temptations. He’d assembled the collection for his beloved but long-departed wife Sonia during the early days of their marriage before she was lost to sickness and the disappointment of an unfulfilled life.
The play actually opens with Sonia (Tricia Homer), the vibrant, young and pregnant mother of Ennis and Malcolm joyously blasting the recorded sounds of Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan in the background as she creates a line of family reunion T-shirts from odds and ends, eagerly anticipating the arrival of her beloved husband William. He’s returning from work as a hard-working blue-collar handy man.
Sonia and William started out with big plans for their children. Sonia had dreamed of becoming a designer and using her gifts to become more than just a homemaker. But that was before their five-year plan went astray as her dream of being an artist got sidetracked by a life of being stuck at home with two rowdy kids.
Ennis now begins to relive that life as a young father with a nagging wife and a dead end job. Both stretch his patience and meager finances paper-thin as he tries to care for his father and his young family in part by convincing his younger brother to give up his future in Connecticut and return to help him care for their father in Kansas.
The strain of Malcolm’s painful choice is played out in a metaphorical game of dominoes. But the ailing father refuses to allow a game of chance to break up his family. “No one is betting on the future of our family,” says William—who’s portrayed with a convincing maturity and authority that belied young G. Alverez Reid’s tender real age of 32.
In the play’s touching climax, William makes a decisive choice that left Saturday both the grown black men on stage and many in the audience in tears—including this writer.
On a WTC scale of zero to four stars, Saturday’s performance of “Broke-ology” was a four bagger Home Run, a proverbial four-bagger. We’d strongly advise you to check out this play as well as the amazing job that Julia Robey Christian has done in building the kind of first-rate community theatre that Anacostia has long deserved.
Rating: **** (Four stars out of four)
“Broke-ology” continues at the Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Place SE, through September 8, 2013: Curtain times are Thursdays and Fridays at 8p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets: $25 with student and senior citizen tickets available for $15. For tickets, directions and information, visit www.theateralliance.com, or call 202-241-2539.
0081 Marlon Russ, G. Alverez Reid, Jacobi Howard
1002 G. Alverez Reid, Jacobi Howard
0556 G. Alverez Reid, Tricia Homer
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