The year in review in Black theater—moving, fresh, phenomenal! Part 2

Linda Armstrong | 1/10/2019, 4:25 p.m.
Aug. 26, 2018, will forever break my heart. The president of AUDELCO, Grace L. Jones, died on that day at ...
Grace L. Jones

October was not only a time for tackling serious issues, but also for enjoying levity. The tremendously important play that focused on the issue of Alzheimer’s disease and how it is dealt with in the Black community—“Dot”—was powerfully mounted at the Billie Holiday Theatre at RestorationART, to start its 51st season. This beautiful play by Colman Domingo, with profound direction by Kenny Leon, looked at the world of Dotty, an elderly Black woman with Alzheimer’s. Domingo presented the illness from Dot’s perspective and the perspective of her daughter, who was her main caregiver, and her family and friends. Now, of course, the storyline is first-rate, but it must be acknowledged that this cast did a phenomenal job. The members were outstanding in their portrayals of these engrossing characters and were led by Denise Burse as Dotty. Others cast members included Tinasha Kajese-Bolden, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Lee Osorio, Amber A. Harris, Rhyn McLemore Saver and Benedetto Robinson. Have you ever gone to a play and couldn’t blink or cough? You only wanted to keep your eyes and senses focused on the actors. Have you ever experienced a gripping, moving storyline that had many unexpected twists and turns and made you think, “Where are they going with this?” but found yourself stunned by the power of the writer and speechless at the end of this engrossing work? Well that begins to describe what I felt while watching “Fireflies,” the new play presented at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater on West 20th Street. This unique, brilliant, captivating and riveting drama told the story of the Rev. Charles Grace, a Black minister involved in the Civil Rights Movement, especially after the bombing of the church in 1963 in Alabama, where the four little girls lost their lives. The play talked about his strained relationship with his wife Olivia, who wrote his sermons, but had secrets she was keeping from him, secrets that involved a lesbian attraction and not wanting to have children. Playwright Donja R. Love gave the audience two characters who had many layers to them. This drama was moving! It touched the soul in a way that would bring you to tears. “Fireflies” featured amazing direction by Saheem Ali and starred the superb cast of Khris Davis and DeWanda Wise. Playwright Nzogi Anyanwu created “Good Grief,” which was performed at the Vineyard Theatre. This amazing play truly made one think about how we handle the death of someone we truly care about. What are some of the stages of grief that people go through? It was an emotional play to watch, but it touched the heart and soul. The audience was told about the friendship/relationship between Nkechi and MJ, two high school students in Bucks County, Pa. in 1992. We then see what happened once MJ was gone. The cast was perfect and made you feel everything they did. It was led by playwright Anyanwu and included Ian Quinlan, Oberon K.A. Adjepong, Nnamdi Asomugha, Patrice Johnson Chevannes, Hunter Parrish and Lisa Ramirez. It had moving direction by Awoye Timpo. Black Spectrum Theatre had the laughs in abundance with their offering of “Reunion in Bartersville” by Celeste Walker, with direction by Marjorie Moon. The play was a comedy mystery that happened during a high school reunion. It was a who-done-it about a murder that had happened decades before. The cast was delightful and included Fulton C. Hodges, Wendi Joy Franklin, Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin, Robert Siverls, Brian Anthony Simmons, Gil Tucker and