For a play about violence, this one is surprisingly gentle and uplifting. Playwright Marcus Gardley pens a tale based on real people. His play compares the trials and triumphs of two young black men. Both men have strong and loving mothers raising them. One is a classical singer. The other is an aspiring basketball player. Despite talent and confidence, both men struggle with their identity. They each want the status that comes from a pair of expensive shoes. Their mothers shepherd these dreams with sensitivity and sensibility.
Under the masterful direction of Chay Yew, the play starts surreal. Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet has a variety of ghostly-washed household fixtures and furniture suspended from the ceiling. It sets the mood for mysticism. In the center of the stage is a still Cheryl Lynn Bruce (Mary). Animated scenes unfold around her. People are demanding her response. Bruce maintains a serenity state. Bruce’s tone suggests someone living in a bubble of tranquility despite adversity. Or a person recalling the simplicity of life pre-tragedy. Or a mother reconciled to fate. Or all the above. The quiet strength of Bruce anchors this show in a broad hope.
The initial monologues are delivered in zest by Tosin Morohunfola, Ernest Perry, Jr. and Jacqueline Williams. The talented threesome morph into different personas as their lives intersect in normal and surprising ways. The hilarious Williams, in particular, responds to situations with sharp-tongued jabs. In one encounter, Williams appears to Bruce as Ida B. Wells. The appearance of the Chicago respected historical figure fortifies the need for reform. The ghostly Ida also reinforces the play’s dreamlike state.
Gardley preaches social change and responsibility. He intertwines plenty of humor throughout his cautionary parable. The normalcy of his characters and their playful banter keeps the dark subject light. The violence is not sought out. It’s a happenstance. In its aftermath lies the personal duty to heal and not let a wound fester.
THE GOSPEL OF LOVINGKINDNESS inspires forgiveness. The message is proclaimed in Gardley’s old and new testaments of truth.
Running Time: One hour and forty minutes with no intermission
At Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln
Written by Marcus Gardley
Directed by Chay Yew
Tuesdays*, Wednesdays**, Thursdays, Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 4pm and 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru March 30th
Buy Tickets at www.victorygardens.org
*No performance on March 11th or 18th
**The March 19th performance is at 2pm
Photo Credit: Michael Courier