Three Great Plays At New Federal Theatre

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sum: It sketches a picture of what happens to those revolutionaries who rise up to fight a cause during a time that cries out for justice, when the revolution is no more. Depending on one’s vantage point it can be said that one man’s hero is another man’s enemy. Blacks in America have always been privy to the eternal internal struggle for equality and justice that has oftentimes been elusive to their community.

[Entertainment: Theater]






The New Federal Theatre, located at 466 Grand Street, is presently featuring 3-One Act plays.  The first play “Amarie” runs 20 minutes and is written by Hugh L. Fletcher, directed by Freedome Bradley and features Sherise Pruitt, Chrystal Stone, Lisa Strum and Carsey Walker, Jr. 

This is a play that delves into family dynamics and the fractured relationship that exists between a mother and daughter. It highlights a changing time when children grow up too fast and some parents put their own interest before their children, especially their love lives.  In Amarie’s case, her mother Candace (Chrystal Stone), likes younger men and has moved her most recent love interest, Armand, into the family home where the unemployed 24 year old youth spends most of his time being nagged by Candace to get a job.  Since Candace does work, this leaves time for Amarie and Armand to become acquainted. 

Armand makes 14 year old Amarie believe she is a young woman and before long Amarie thinks she knows more about what a man wants and needs than her mother.  She begins to spend less time in school prompting her teacher played by Lisa Strum to contact the Administration of Children’s Services.  Of course, this is when Candace learns her daughter’s grades are slipping and is truant.  Suddenly, Candace is forced to face the fact that her 14 year old daughter has become her competitor and enemy.  The end result of this scenario plays out in ways that destroys the lives of all concerned.

An Ed Bullins and Marvin X play “Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam” is the next play up and in this reviewer’s mind the most poignant of the three one act plays.  It sketches a picture of what happens to those revolutionaries who rise up to fight a cause during a time that cries out for justice, when the revolution is no more.  Depending on one’s vantage point it can be said that one man’s hero is another man’s enemy.  Blacks in America have always been privy to the eternal internal struggle for equality and justice that has oftentimes been elusive to their community. 

Thus, understood quite well what Michelle Obama meant when she said it was the first time she was proud of this country.  The history of this country’s brutality toward its citizens of color stands on its own historic merit.  Few can deny this country’s shame unless of course they are hypocrites.  And thus, back in the 1960s when the Black Panthers came into prominence they were revered by many black people as the protectors who stood between the community and the Oakland police department, who at that time where known to terrorize black neighborhoods.  Huey Percy Newton co-founded the Panther Party with Bobby Seale. 

The original Panthers were a Black organization that existed from the 1960s-1980s.  Newton studied law at Oakland City College and San Francisco Law School prior to forming the party.  He was prompted to study law after witnessing police abuse.  Of a volatile nature, Newton spent 6 months in jail for stabbing a man at a party.  Since Newton understood the California penal code and state laws regarding weapons, he encouraged numbers of African Americans to exercise their legal right to bear open arms.  Black Panther members began to patrol the streets determined to stop police violence in African American communities. 

The Party also encouraged education and created breakfast programs to feed children. The Panthers sought to bring about a fairer political social economic change designed to help those struggling under the weight of the capitalistic system of big business.  However, every revolution and effort to bring about social change is met with fierce opposition by the powers that be, thus often those united in the cause are under minded by their very own and the strategies and trickery of the oppressing force.  “Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam” delves into what happens to soldiers in the aftermath of war, and what becomes of heroes when the parade passes them by.  This short play directed by Mansoor Najee-ullah was performed to perfection by Michael Alcide, Gano Grills and Harison Lee.

The final act directed by Hampton V. Clanton is Amiri Baraka’s play “The Toilet.”  Although this offering takes place in the men’s laboratory of the John W. Brown Maritime High School, perhaps a closet would have been better suited given the back door route this play takes to address the fragility of the male libido in seeking to define the true meaning of masculinity.  Written in 1964, the play remains just as current today, as it seeks to address the struggle of youth to define their sexual orientation.  “The Toilet,” flushes out the fear, homoeroticism, and homophobic behavior of a group of male students who discover one of their school mates is gay. 

The gay student’s advances is heightened because not only is he white but he chooses to reveal his admiration to a black student well respected for his machismo among his peers.  This is interpreted as a threat to the masculinity of the black student who rather than be tainted as gay himself, organizes a group of his homophobic buddies to give the white student a public reprimand.  After a series of boasting, horseplay, threats and punching of one another to work up their courage, the boys fall upon their prey beating him mercilessly in ritualistic sacrifice to their frail libidos. 

The ferocity of the beating seemed to suggest a tacit disavowal of any latent homosexuality that might lay dormant within these boys in their effort to understand the complicated relationship of gender, race, and sexual identity.  The ending reveals how fragile is the thread binding staunch masculinity and homophobic rhetoric. The cast includes Michael Aleide, Amari Cheato, W. Tre Davis, Adam R. Deremer, Ananias J. Dixon, Lawrence Mack, Ras Enoch McDurdie, Natafa, Reynaldo Piniella, Johnny Ramey and Mat Weaver.

Go see these plays!


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