Nathan Louis Jackson is making his New York debut as playwright of “BROKE-OLOGY” now running through November 22nd at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center. Mr. Jackson is a recent graduate of the Juilliard School’s Playwriting program and BROKE-OLOGY was originally produced last summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. What an auspicious beginning for such a talented writer. Make sure to see this powerful and poignant production.
BROKE-OLOGY is an unsettling, humorous, theatrical and heart wrenching story of the King family which will have you thinking about them long after you have left the theatre. And the sadness that permeates their lives.
The sadness of being stuck in a life that isn’t what they dreamed of. Stuck because they are poor black people in Kansas City 1982. Poor but dealing with their problems and happy despite everything bad that happens. There is the sadness about losing a spouse, aging, sickness and the sadness about having to make difficult choices. Universal concerns.
We start with a pregnant Sonia (Crystal A. Dickinson) dancing around her crowded but clean home painting tee shirts that she can’t afford to buy and preparing a meal for her husband William (Wendell Pierce). They are in love and looking forward to a large family and a wonderful future.
With great lighting design by Jason Lyons we segue into the present. Their two children are grown. Ennis (a compelling Francois Battiste), a restaurant worker with a baby on the way has all the answers – he thinks. And he has come up with the science of dealing with being broke and surviving it. Hence the title of the play. His younger brother Malcolm (Alano Miller) has returned to Kansas City from Connecticut having received his Masters Degree to visit his ailing father who is now suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Their mother passed on years ago from cancer but returns in the mind of her husband in some tender and beautifully realized scenes.
It is Malcolm’s decision to stay or return to his new life that propels this disturbing story. The actors are all outstanding as they grapple with their emotions in a natural and honest way with splashes of humor thrown in. Of course the brothers are at odds – with William thinking Malcolm selfish if he leaves him to deal with his progressively deteriorating dad, his nagging wife, his new son and the garden gnome that hey have kidnapped from a neighbor’s garden while going on a pirate expedition. They may have grown up problems but they still act like kids when all together – especially over a game of dominoes.
Wendell Pierce gives a heartbreaking performance as a man struggling with his health, not being able to do what once was easy, dropping things, going blind, dealing with excruciating pain and then coming to a conclusion that will leave his sons free to follow their dreams and you in tears. The entire production is skillfully enhanced by the direction of Thomas Kail. www.lct.org