Will Mr. Rogers have to close his Health Food store in the Hood, giving up on his dream? Will his ten year old son Eric find the secret to his recipe of herbal iced tea to cure all broken hearts in his lab at home? Will Dre, an HIV addict who works for Mr. Rogers and is awaiting the imminent birth of his first child be strong enough to break the cycle of failure instilled in his psyche? Will ‘Twon, pal of Mr. Rogers’ son and recent high school graduate be able to continue on to college and not get his girl friend pregnant? Will Isaac a 40 year old, unmarried music executive and ‘Twon’s mentor be able to finally face up to his father, an obese Minister who craves HoHos and tell him the truth?
These characters and their black experience problems are brought to vivid life by one man. Daniel Beaty. A humble and passionate actor bursting with talent who also created these stock characters. But in the hands of Mr. Beaty who is a master of the spoken word, with a majestic voice that can bellow and then turn poetic in the blink of an eye these characters will amuse and beguile you. Mr. Beaty’s strong underlying message of faith, hope and taking care of the children is omnipresent. To do whatever it takes, despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles to make it through the night.
On a simple but elegant set by Alexander V. Nichols who also is responsible for the lighting and projections (that help define the fast changing locations) Mr. Beaty under the skilled and slick direction of Charles Randolph-Wright makes his plea for educating children, aiming for something big, being persistent and paying tribute to the strong, willful and hard working black women that are the backbone of the black male experience.
Memorable is the mother of Issac who gets her son the education he deserves and the teary eyed tribute to Mr. Rogers’ mother, the Angel & the Demon on the Minister’s shoulders urging him to feast or fast in rhyme, the imagined “gay” sermon that the Minister’s son wish he could give and the innocent yearnings of the ten year old boy to help his dad who smiles but has such sad eyes.
The only thing that took me out of Mr. Beaty’s bravura performance was a young women sitting next to me who was eating a vegan pita during the show. Did she really have to eat in the theatre? I have to agree with the Minister whose wife wants him to stop fast food and become a vegan. “Vegan doesn’t even sound tasty.” It doesn’t look very tasty either from what I observed next to me.
www.throughthenightonstage.com At the Union Square Theatre 100East 17th Street
Photo: Carol Rosegg