West Coast Florida
The Amen Corner
28 Theaters in 18 Cities came together on Monday Night, June 18, 2012, for Project 1 Voice, a celebration of African-American Theaters and Playwrights. The work chosen was James Baldwin's 1956 play The Amen Corner. A few theaters mounted full productions, but most participated with a reading. I attended the West Coast Black Theater Troup's presentation at their theater in Sarasota Florida (see wbttroupe.org for more information).
The thing that continually amazes me is the depth of the talent pool that this theater is able to dip into. Year after year, production after production they entertain audiences with presentations that outclass some of the professional companies in the area. As a new force to be reckoned with, the immensely talented Will Little directed a reading, scripts very much in hand, that probably could have used more rehearsal if busy actor's schedules had only permitted. Still, the audience was treated to some excellent portrayals of Baldwin's richly drawn characters. This was my first chance to experience this play which is a shame because the themes are universal and timeless.
As Margaret, the preacher/mother/wife at the center of the play, Anita Williams was a bit book-bound to fully convey the shifting moods and emotions of this character. I kept feeling that there was a rich performance inside her, waiting to be released with more preparation time. Martin Taylor as estranged husband Luke and Emmanuel Avraham as son, David lit sparks in their two scenes together. They were equally good in scenes with Ms. Williams. Kristen Wilson was excellent as Sister Moore, with her eye on replacing Margaret as Pastor. Hers was one of the most physically realized performance she used her left arm to convey the religiosity of this woman. Bianca Sumter as Mrs. Jackson had two highly emotionally charged scenes which were almost impossibly moving. Jaszy McAllister and James Pierre as Brother and Sister Boxer, along with Dhakeria Cunningham as Odessa were all assets as the members of the church. Because of the brilliance of James Baldwin's writing, these characters have an emotional richness which was illuminated. This was a great night for all, audience and cast, I was glad to have the opportunity to attend.
Directed by Will Little