The Women’s Theatre Festival’s production of Men Always Leave, written and directed by Naima Yetunde Ince, was originally scheduled to be performed Aug. 6th and 7th, in tandem with Carol Torian’s The Traditionalists, as one of a pair of plays exploring “the complexities of our closest relationships and the way cycles of violence and abandonment shape the stories of our lives[.]” A problem caused the cancellation of the first week’s performances of Men Always Leave.
Ince was one of five playwrights who read from their works on Aug. 9that N.C. Women Playwrights Out Loud, a sister show of the WTF, held at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), as a benefit for Partners Against the Trafficking of Humans in NC (PATHNC), and sponsored by So & So Books of Raleigh. Ince is also a power to be reckoned with in future, we are sure. She is an accomplished spoken-word artist; and her Slam-class poetry has depth and vision as well extraordinary vocabulary, wonderful rhymes, rhythms and puns, musicality and sensitivity. Her delivery is passionate and magnetic.
Naima Yetunde Ince directed, as well as wrote this piece, keeping the blocking tight and easily readable on a small stage, and getting from her performers good characterizations that were not at all stereotypical.
Seth Schenall is delightful and precocious as Hakeem, the young son of Maya, whose father visits mostly according to his mother’s convenience. Schenall understood the role, and his last line in the play is delivered with a heart-touching gusto.
Jade, Maya’s best friend and mentor, is portrayed by Chanda Branch, who brings a hip, but wise demeanor to the role, and has a flair for the comic touch.
Maya Williams, as Maya, gives a nuanced performance as a young woman who was heart-broken by her absent father, and is trying to learn how to trust their child’s father, who stalls on the marriage end of the relationship. She needs to learn to project her voice more to her audience.
Mille, Maya’s mother, is expertly done by Celeste Hinnant, who dominates the space while she’s there, as a mother should, and shows the tenderness and care a mother does.
JaJuan Cofield, as Jermaine, does a fine job of presenting the ambiguity that he feels about marriage, fearing he cannot live up to it, and knowing he wants to. Cofield makes Jermaine’s love for both Maya and his son, Hakeem, sensitive and genuine.
Katia Wilson rounds out the cast as Maya’s would-be suitor, Robert.
Naima Yetunde Ince, herself, wraps the play up with a powerful spoken-word performance of her poem, “Men Always Leave.”
The set is well designed by Sage Amthor Twiss, who provides a comfortable and complete dinette and living room.
Unfortunately, this piece will not be seen again in this festival; however, the 2016 Women’s Theatre Festival continues until Sept. 3rd.
MEN ALWAYS LEAVE (Women’s Theatre Festival, Aug. 12-14 at the Umstead Park United Church of Christ in Raleigh, NC).
SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: http://www.womenstheatrefestival.com/#!Spotlight-on-Men-Always-Leave/z8qkb/579f9d330cf218c3f1790653.
2016 FESTIVAL LINEUP: http://www.womenstheatrefestival.com/#!schedule/trwge.
PRESENTER: http://www.womenstheatrefestival.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/1081089605266087/.
VENUE: http://www.upucc.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/UmsteadParkUCC.
Naima Yetunde Ince (Raleigh, NC playwright and director): https://www.facebook.com/Nyi2687 (Facebook page).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.