note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
After four decades, Director Benny Sato Ambush has returned home to Boston, (he was born in Brookline and raised in Worcester). Saying it’s good to be back, he helms Emerson Stage and teaches acting and directing at Emerson College. Lucky for the Lyric Stage Company and audiences, Ambush is heading the theater’s touching production of Nathan Louis Jackson’s “Broke-ology,” a sensitively moving story about a loving African-American, Kansas City, Kan. family faced with life-changing decisions.
For two hours, Boston’s beloved star, Johnny Lee Davenport, captivates as William King, a deeply grieving, widowed, hardworking father of two sons who is stricken with multiple sclerosis and its debilitating side effects. Although his wife, Sonia, has been dead for 15 years, he loves her with all his heart and is unreconciled to her loss. He frequently has visions of her, cuddling with her, talking with her, that gnaw at our souls. Patrice Jean-Baptiste as Sonia is deeply moving, her love and devotion to William and her self-sacrifices for him and their two sons idyllic.
Although both sons are devoted to their dad and each other, their personalities are profoundly contrasting. Ennis, the elder son, (David Curtis) stayed in the neighborhood, married a white Greek girl at a young age, works at a dead-end job in a restaurant and feels saddled with responsibility, especially with a baby on the way. Jokingly, he creates “broke-ology,” the science of being financially broke.
On the other hand, Malcolm (Monty Cole) is scholarly, with two degrees, including a master’s degree in environmental science and two jobs waiting - one with the EPA at home in Kansas City, the other, a plum job he desperately wants to take - as a professor at his alma mater, the University of Connecticut. Besides, a black woman whom he loves and admires is waiting back East for him.
Although Malcolm loves his brother and his dad, he wants to live his own life and map out his own future. As Ennis, Curtis provides several comic moments, yet plenty of pathos. He’s immature, yet saddled with mounting responsibilities that include providing medical care and attention to his dad, who is failing rapidly.
As younger brother Malcolm, Cole has his mother’s sensitivity and gracious self-pride, as he becomes increasingly aware he has outgrown the deteriorating ‘hood.
Between games of Dominoes and a shattering series of health-related events, William undergoes a revelation and makes a stunning decision that moves the audience to tears.
Skip Curtiss’ set of a struggling middle-class family in a deteriorating neighborhood is poignantly realistic, and Margo Caddell’s lighting captures riveting moments, especially during William’s dreams and visions with Sonia. Although “Broke-ology” centers on an African-American family, the dynamics of love and sacrifice, loss, caring and debilitation, while trying desperately to preserve family unity, is universal.
BOX INFO: Two-act play, written by Nathan Louis Jackson, appearing through April 23 at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon St., Boston. Performances are: Wednesdays, Thursdays, at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3,8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; also Wednesday, March 30, April 20, at 2 p.m. Post-show talkback April 10, after 3 p.m. show. Tickets: $25-$52; seniors, $5 off; student rush, $10; group rates. Call the Box Office at 617-585-5678 or visit lyricstage.com.