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Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Mud Row
People's Light
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule


Nikkole Salter and Renika Williams
Photo by Mark Garvin
There is a whole lot of love in Mud Row. Not the kind of romantic love that idealizes and flatters. Not the stalwart familial bonds that never wavier or doubt. Not the love we imagine and wish to experience. No, the love in Mud Row is the messy, changing, painful love that sees all your flaws and loves you even when it hates you. Real love. And it is absolutely riveting to watch that authentic love motivate the complex, multidimensional characters who populate playwright Dominique Morisseau's ambitious new work, now in its world premiere production at People's Light in Malvern.

The plot centers around two generations of sisters and their house in the historically black neighborhood of West Chester, Pennsylvania, known as Mud Row. Elsie (Tiffany Rachelle Stewart) and Frances (Gillian Glasco) struggle to find acceptance and empowerment in the early 1960s. Frances embraces the civil rights movement while Elsie gleefully espouses the ideology of W.E.B. DuBois, yet both are isolated from their local community. Regine (Nikkole Salter) and Toshi (Renika Williams) and their men (Bjorn DuPaty and Eric Robinson Jr.) are trying to come to terms with each other and their legacy in the present day. The entire cast is magnificent, with especially memorable performances by Stewart and Salter.

Steve H. Broadnax III's direction is smart and his production worthy of this exciting new work. Kathy Perkins' stellar lighting makes the transitions between time periods seamless and brings Michael Carnahan's thoughtful set design to life. Shilla Benning's impeccable costumes are spot-on in both the past and present. There is some room for improvement with regard to the music that plays during the transitions, but that is more missed opportunity than problem.

Mud Row was commissioned by People's Light as part of New Play Frontiers, a project designed to generate new work by matching playwrights with local communities. Dominique Morisseau was not yet a Tony-nominated writer or MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" recipient when she was tapped for the program, but it was an undoubtedly brilliant match. Morisseau's writing is rich and authentic. Tense, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring, Mud Row pulses with the the love Morisseau feels for her characters and the real life people who inspire them.

Mud Row, through July 28, 2019, at People's Light, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern PA. For tickets call 610-644-3500 or visit www.peopleslight.org.

Cast:
Tiffany Rachelle Stewart as Elsie
Gillian Glasco as Frances
Nikkole Salter as Regine
Bjorn DuPaty as Davin
Renika Williams as Toshi
Eric Robinson Jr. as Tyriek

Crew:
Steve H. Broadnax III: Director
Michael Carnahan: Scenic Design
Shilla Benning: Costume Design
Kathy Perkins: Lighting Design
Curtis Craig: Sound Design
Gina Pisasale: Dramaturg
Kate McSorley Fossner: Stage Manager
West Chester resident Penny Washington generously shares her time and passion as historical consultant on the production


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