Play: Welcome Home Sonny T
Nestor Carrillo, Richard Pryor Jr., Kadeem Harris. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
In a neighborhood torn by gun violence between black and Mexican youth, a prominent black minister, haunted by the ghosts of his struggles as a 60's radical, faces his own impotence to restore order.
"Welcome Home Sonny T" is in the tradition of Steven Carter, Lorraine Hansberry, Charles Fuller and James Baldwin, whose plays confronted black family and community issues of exceeding relevance and urgency. It spotlights two significant forces driving the epidemic: the social impact of alienation and unemployment on young black males and the declining influence of black ministers as a force of stability in affected neighborhoods.
The play centers on Reverend Miller, a fictional middle-aged Staten Island activist minister who was a firebrand activist for civil rights, but has been worn down over his long career. He had rescued a troubled but promising teen known as Sonny T by channeling him into the army. Having served in Afghanistan, Sonny T is finally returning home and a welcoming party is planned. But there is discord, even shooting, in Sonny's neighborhood between the established blacks and Mexican newcomers.
The soldier's brother, Rodney, is under the influence of an angry, lost brigand named Big Boy who plans to threaten a protest march organized by a young Mexican man, whose brother has recently been shot and wounded. The play looks deeply into Rodney's home life, revealing the powerlessness of his mother and sister to guide him, and into the social injustice and peer pressures that drive his choices. The community's elders watch as their victories of past decades are undone by the plague of gun violence. Discouraged and yearing for redemption, they are ultimately capable of extreme bravery.
With: Richard Pryor Jr., Verna Hampton, Brandon Mellette, Kadeem Harris, Nestor Carrillo, Brittany Benson and Levern Williams.
Playwright/director William Electric Black, aka Ian Ellis James, is a seven-time Emmy Award winning writer for his work on "Sesame Street" between 1992 and 2002. He also wrote for Nickelodeon's "Allegra’s Window" and LancitMedia’s "Backyard Safari." His record with "activist" plays of this sort is admirable. In 2009, he directed Theater for the New City's sensational and serious "Lonely Soldier Monologues: Women at War in Iraq," a staged series of monologues based on a book by Helen Benedict. The play earned widespread notice and significantly helped the issues of America's female soldiers to be widely recognized for the first time.
WHERE AND WHEN: December 5 to 22, 2013
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave.
Thursdays - Saturdays 8:00 PM; Sundays at 3:00 PM
Tickets $15 general admission/$12 seniors and students
Box office 212-254-1109, www.theaterforthenewcity.net
Show's website: www.welcomehomesonnyt.com
Running time 1:40. Critics are invited on or after Friday, December 6.