Thursday, October 15, 2009
This is a play about a really nice nuclear family who live in Kansas City, KS, and who all love and enjoy each other. While the actors playing them happen to be black, the themes are not. Broke-ology has the comfy feel of a 1950s TV series about family life. It’s pleasant, and completely predictable.
Unpleasant things do happen. The mother dies after the first scene and the father is dying of multiple sclerosis for the rest of the two hours, finally succumbing at the end. In between the brothers quarrel about his care. That may sound like a lot is happening, but at the end I had a So what? feeling. This is because the dying is expected from the get-go and the arguing is done without any intense anger. If Ozzie and Harriet had died on their show, this is probably how it would have been done.
Playwright Nathan Louis Jackson, making his New York debut with Broke-ology, drew a bit of the story from his own life -- he grew up in Kansas and his father died of MS. He has created a likable, hardworking father in William King, played by Wendell Pierce (in photo, center). William loves his wife, Sonia (Crystal A. Dickinson), whose spirit continues to visit him after she dies. Older son Ennis (Francois Battiste, left in photo) is the joking wise guy who stayed in town, fathered a child and is working in a cheap food joint. Second son Malcolm (Alano Miller, right) is recently graduated with a master’s from the University of Connecticut and has been offered a teaching job there. They are all good in their parts and seem like a real family, thanks in part ot Jackson’s natural-sounding dialogue.
The title, Broke-ology, comes from a term coined by Ennis, who likes using “ology,” meaning the study of, and applies it to his current situation, which is broke.
The play is directed by In the Heights director Thomas Kail and plays at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater through Nov. 22. It premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2008.
Donyale Werle has designed a single atmospheric set, a cluttered little living room connected to the kitchen. Emily Rebholz designed the appropriate costumes and Jason Lyons the lighting.
Jackson, a Juilliard graduate, is the recipient of two Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Awards, the Mark Twain Playwrighting Award and the Kennedy Center's Gold Medallion.
For tickets visit www.lct.org.