The Justice Theater Project produces some mighty fine theatrical productions on a shoe-string budget while striving — in the words of its mission statement — to bring the plight of “the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed” to the public’s attention. The final presentation of the Raleigh, NC-based activist theater company’s 2010-11 season — whose theme is “Making Community Family and the Common Good” — is just the latest example.
Director Sean A. Brosnahan has assembled a stellar cast and an imaginative and resourceful creative team to stage a riveting rendition of Home by Burgaw, NC-born African-American dramatist and screenwriter Samm-Art Williams in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh.
The play is set in the small Eastern North Carolina agricultural town of Cross Roads; in a cramped cell in a Raleigh prison; and at various places on the mean streets of what Williams calls “a very, very large American city” — three very different locations that scenographer Shannon Clark brilliantly evokes with slides on the tendo cloth that serves as a backdrop for the action.
Joseph Callender gives a soul-stirring performance as a Black Everyman called Cephus Miles, a farmer’s son who grows up in the 1950s hearing the good Christian people of his community preaching “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and then finds himself arrested, convicted, and imprisoned in Raleigh — at the tender age 19 — for resisting the military draft that would have sent him halfway around the world to violate that basic religious tenet daily in a war-ravaged Southeast Asian country that had been a pawn on the Super Powers’ geopolitical chessboard since the end of World War II.
While Joseph Callender’s eloquence wins the hearts and minds of Justice Theater Project’s patrons, Rasool Jahan and Joy Williams alternately tickle the audience’s funny-bones and raise their hackles with their charismatic characterizations of some two dozen people — good, bad, and ugly — whom Cephus Miles encounters during his painful coming-of-age story, when he loses the love of his life, Pattie-Mae Wells (luminously portrayed by Rasool Jahan), and his freedom by becoming a draft resister.
Brosnahan and cohorts’ superlative staging not only showcases the praiseworthy performances of Joseph Callender, Rasool Jahan, and Joy Williams, but also helps raise the consciousness of Triangle theatergoers. Cephus Miles, Pattie-Mae Wells, and company are not characters that they will soon forget.
SECOND OPINION: June 22nd Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 2.5 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/justice-theater-projects-home/Content?oid=2567143. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the June 10th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/06/joseph-callender-stars-as-black-everyman-cephus-miles-in-home-by-samm-art-williams/.)
The Justice Theater Project presents HOME at 2 p.m. June 26 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi, 11401 Leesville Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27613.
TICKETS: $15 ($12 students and seniors), except $8 matinee on June 12th.
BOX OFFICE: 919/264-7089 or http://www.etix.com/ticket/online/eventSearch.jsp?event_id=9796.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 2 p.m. June 26th performance.
The Play: http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=10194 (Internet Broadway Database).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samm-Art_Williams (Wikipedia), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=8587 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0931638/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.
To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.