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Theatre Review by Howard Miller - June 14, 2023

Suzette Llewellyn and Raphel Famotibe
Photo by Carol Rosegg
After many years of being on the theatrical down-low, stories of gay Black men (if not women) are starting to show up with some regularity on and off Broadway. In A Strange Loop, Fat Ham, and ... what the end will be, gay Black men are at front and center. They also have put in significant appearances in Slave Play, Chicken & Biscuits, and Thoughts of a Colored Man, to name several other recent examples. Overall, however, with the exception of A Strange Loop, the intersection of race and sexuality generally has not been deeply examined in these plays. This is what makes Foxes, a debut work by actor/playwright Dexter Flanders, a particularly compelling addition to the slowly expanding repertoire.

As part of the Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 Theaters, Foxes introduces us to Daniel (Raphel Famotibe). He is a 20-something Black Brit who finds himself deeply conflicted about his sexuality, against a backdrop of his upbringing by his tough but loving Jamaican mom, Patricia (Suzette Llewellyn), a widow whose values are firmly rooted in her Christian faith.

Daniel's struggle comes off as a personal coming-of-age story, but with quite a twist as we discover in the opening scene. In the first of several life-changing events he will face over the course of the 100-minute play, Daniel learns that his girlfriend Meera (Nemide May) is pregnant with his child, and that her Muslim family has unequivocally disowned her and thrown her out of their home.

Fortunately for the two of them, his mother lives up to her often-repeated gospel of love, equality, and respect that she preaches to her children, Daniel and his sister Deena (Tosin Alabi). Patricia takes the news surprisingly well and welcomes Meera into her home, looking forward to becoming a doting grandmother.

For his part, Daniel pledges to be a loving and responsible partner. Still, and not unexpectedly, he is thrown by this turn of events, and his sleep is rattled by nightmares in which he finds himself literally shackled and unable to break loose. Who can he turn to for support but his footballer, rap singing, video game buddy Leon (Bayo Gbadamosi)? With Leon, Daniel feels free from his very grownup responsibilities. But when a bit of roughhousing ends with a startling kiss, Daniel's life is upended once again as he realizes the shackles he has been dreaming about have less to do with pending fatherhood and more about his sexuality.

How this all unfolds becomes the heart of Foxes, a play that, on the face of it, may seem driven by familiar tropes about finding one's place in the world and about the experience of coming out. But there is so much honesty in the writing, as well as in the performances under James Hillier's sensitive direction, that everything is quite believable. Especially compelling is the pressure on both Daniel and Leon (who has long been out to himself, but on the DL in his public behavior) to live their truth openly and honestly. Also very credible is Patricia's reaction when Daniel confides in her. That there are no easy answers here is a great strength of the play, which concludes with a sort of unspoken truce that leaves us with a sense of "to be continued" rather than a resolved "the end."

Defibrillator and M. Green Productions
Through July 1, 2023
59E59 Theaters, Theater A, 59 E. 59th St.
Tickets online and current performance schedule: