Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol
Malcolm King (David Pegram) is returning to Kansas City and his family homestead where his brother Ennis (Royce Johnson) has been caring for their father, William (Frank Faucette). William is a warm, large, gregarious man who struggles with multiple sclerosis. William lost his beloved wife Sonia (Gina Daniels), who revisits the scene every so often. Clearly, William cherished his wife even if their time together was not always harmonious.
Malcolm has completed significant schooling at the University of Connecticut and wishes to return to the Northeast since he has been offered a position working in neighborhoods. But the anxiety-ridden Ennis, whose girlfriend will soon have their baby, wishes Malcolm would stay around to help out.
The banter between the brothers is fun and, in its own regard, provides insight. Each has his legitimate points. William is a proud man who fights to continue as a self-sufficient human being even if it is obvious that his sight is vanishing as his ability to balance himself in an upright position.
The play is laced with questions: Can this family, lacking fiscal stability, survive? Who will care for a dying father? Finally, will the group, as a unit, stay together?
Jackson's play is sweet and touching. Thematically, it addresses a current socioeconomic reality: that certain African-American households are desperately striving for financial solvency. The playwright is thoughtful and the issues real. Neither of the brothers wants to spend the rest of his life impoverished. Malcolm feels that his prospects for a better station are there for the taking. Ennis does not want to resent his brother, but Ennis must fend for himself, the girlfriend, and child who will soon arrive. William harbors the hope that he somehow might navigate through all of his physical pain.
Luke Cantarella's set design brings us directly to the confines of a home that has seen it all: the stage holds kitchen, living room, and bathroom in a compact space. Thompson pushes the play forward so the audience feels fully involved in the action.
The territory Jackson addresses is recognizable and he's written a solid play. The performances are high caliber as is Thompson's direction. Many moments are realistic and situations of this type probably continue. Whether this play leaves an indelible imprint in one's mind is open to debate. The drama, to be certain, is deep-felt.
Broke-ology continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through October 24th. For ticket information, call (860) 527-7838 or visit theaterworkshartford.org.