The Afrikan Women's Repertory Theater's "The Stranger" and Upcoming Show "Dionne Fairbanks"
Bonnie Wright, founder of the Afrikan Women’s Repertory Theatre and writer of “The Stranger,” is an unassuming top playwright (who’s written over 700 plays in her lifetime)--not snooty and dramatic like you might imagine some in the theater, but warm and friendly, nurturing with a musical laugh. She has the kind of energy that would make you want to sit down and have a cup of tea with her in her living room.
She takes that nurturing energy and applies it to her work: her writing and her actors. “I have my ‘number 1’s’ and we work them to be the stars they should be,” she proudly tells me, when I came to the Producers Club in the Theatre District of Manhattan to see the “The Stranger” on a Sunday afternoon. With a colorful cast of characters it delved into the phenomenon that is all present in the days of our lives: different people coming from different places yet ending up at the same place. Although it is a simple play where the set doesn’t change, its complete with a gun scene to add spice and suspense to this short comedic piece.
Naomi Taylor plays a bubbly and hopeful “Z,” and Haydee Ligeon is a hilarious “Liz.” Don Jenkins, Flor E. Johnson, Cassandra C. Fleming, Kossivi M. Alokpovi and Richard “Ibyn” Clarke complete the cast of characters as Brian, Candace, Livie, Bert, and Hal, respectively, along with Ahkai Franklin as Cole.
“I have the training and I did the classics.” Says Akhai who has been working with Bonnie for several years. “I acted before I got here but when I worked with Bonnie I became an actor. Seeing great actors consistently helped me be an actor. With her you do the full range. I’ve learned a lot if not more than Bonnie than working with anyone else. Her approach to theater is more relatable. You can see yourself.”
And I did in “The Stranger” is a great show that spoke to the human experience of broken dreams, high aspirations, escaping your self and following your heart. “I usually don’t work in the summer,” she also told me, but I’m glad she did. Or else I wouldn’t have been able to meet her that day, and be cast in one of her next shows for the Fall season: “Dionne Fairbanks,” about a snide critic who, in an effort to maintain her power will stop at nothing to assert her independence, fierceness, and conviction that she holds all power to break a man...if not with her bitchiness, than with her pen. This show will be playing at the Producer’s Club, Friday October 11th at 8:00PM, Saturday October 12th at 2:00PM and 5:00PM and Sunday October 13th at 1:00PM and 5:00PM.
Photo: Ahkai Franklin who played "Cole" in "The Stranger"