Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

it's not a trip it's a journey
Round House Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of "We Declare You a Terrorist..."

Dezi Bing, Erin Margaret Pettigrew, Cristina Pitter,
and Afua Busia

Photo by Margot Schulman Photography
As part of its National Capital New Play Festival, Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, has staged a second mainstage world premiere: it's not a trip it's a journey. It's a big-hearted story of four "Black femmes," to use the phrase of playwright Charly Evon Simpson, who set off on a road trip from their homes in New York City to the Grand Canyon. Director Nicole A. Watson has molded the four actresses into a strong ensemble while also honoring the individuality of each; much of the dramatic impact of the play comes from the ways the characters have dealt with their past experiences.

Lawrence E. Moten III has created an ingenious, non-literal scenic design that depicts the changing landscape with easily identifiable objects–road construction signs, advertising logos, references to lodging–and a two-lane road that climbs from the stage floor to the rear wall, the whole thing topped off with a skewed proscenium arch and illuminated by Amith Chandrashaker's neon-splashed lighting design. The rear half of a yellow car, and a New York State license plate on a yellow piece of luggage, represent the travelers' vehicle.

June (Erin Margaret Pettigrew) came up with the idea for the trip, and she is the one who keeps referring to it as a journey. She has a definite issue in mind, which the audience learns long before the other travelers: Frankie (Cristina Pitter), tough and voluble; Rain (Afua Busia), mourning the end of a romance; and Willie (Dezi Bing), a transwoman dealing with people who insist on misgendering her. Their five-day odyssey, laid out on a map in the program, includes stops at offbeat tourist attractions and allows one of the women, a lifelong New Yorker, to learn to drive.

What, then, is the play about? Simpson wants to show the unique perspectives and attitudes of Black women when they are alone together, just the four of them. (The play includes no interactions between them and the people they might meet along the way.) They share amusing and harrowing stories from their lives, primarily June, who hypnotizes the audience with her aria-like speech after they arrive at their goal.

Ivania Stack's costumes exemplify how there is no single type of Black woman; each character dresses in a specific way, from Pettigrew's Whitney Houston T-shirt to Pitter's cropped jacket.

it's not a trip it's a journey runs through May 8, 2022, in rep with "We Declare You a TerroristÂ…", at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda MD. For tickets and information, please call 240-644-1100 or visit

By Charly Evon Simpson
Directed by Nicole A. Watson

June: Erin Margaret Pettigrew
Frankie: Cristina Pitter
Rain: Afua Busia
Willie: Dezi Bing