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None Too Fragile offering study in race relations

4/18/2013 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

‘White People’ features memorable characters

MERRIMAN VALLEY — None Too Fragile Theater’s production of “White People” offers psychological and intellectual challenges to the audience. This new script is now playing through May 11 at Pub Bricco in the Merriman Valley.

The play deals with three white characters who wrestle with being confronted by people of other races.

Playwright J.T. Rogers received several playwriting awards for “White People.” The structure of the play is unique. The three characters have no interaction, and each has several long monologues. In the early monologues, each reveals the story of his/her life, but as the story progresses, each reveals conflicts with people of other races.

Mara Lynn (Kelly Strand) had a successful high school career, including being homecoming queen. She married the school’s handsome, champion wrestler, but eventually they fell on hard times financially. They spend a good deal of time and money on their son, who has seizures, and she was annoyed by her son’s doctor. He was from India and has photos of his healthy, happy family in his office.

When she was overdrawn at the bank, she was confronted by the branch manager, a black woman who was her classmate in school. Mara Lynn argued these other people have to get in line behind her because she was in this country first and she has rights.

Allen (Michael Gatto) teaches at a New York school. He has resentment toward a black female student — one of the best students he has. Late one evening, he and his wife take a shortcut through a park and are attacked by a gang of black men. They kick and punch his pregnant wife in the stomach.

Martin (Robert Branch) wants his children to grow up to be like him. He is well-educated and works in a high-powered office. But, he gets a call from the police and discovers his son was part of a gang that assaulted someone. He is unhappy with his son and his inability to control his children.

The three stories have power, and when combined into one play, the show becomes thought-provoking and powerful.

The three actors contribute beyond the script to make the audience think about what it means to be white, black or people of different color.

Strand brings wistfulness to Mara Lynn. Her character seemed to be pointed toward personal and marital success. But, through her poor choices, she is reduced to being poor and caring for a sick child.

Gatto makes Allen a macho man who is capable of protecting himself and his family.

Martin has successfully blocked all racial prejudices from his thoughts. He is surprised when all of his prejudices erupt at once. Watching Branch play a character at the moment of self-discovery is fascinating theater. Branch makes Martin a domineering man, who will force his children to grow up in his image. When he discovers his children are less than perfect, he reveals himself as a shattered man.

Director Sean Derry did an excellent job helping each actor develop a character who is memorable and frightening.

For ticket information, call 330-671-4563. On opening night, only a few seats remained. I recommend you not wait until the end of this run to get your tickets. The theater is intimate, and you may not be able to get tickets.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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