Saturday, October 24, 2009


"Broke-ology" presented by Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse, October 22, 2009

Lincoln Center Theater continues its commitment to new plays with Nathan Louis Jackson's latest work, Broke-ology.

(Possible spoiler alert)

The story begins with something of a prologue in 1982 when a pregnant Sonia (Crystal A Dickinson) is painting graphics on t-shirts to mimic something she and her husband William (Wendell Pierce) can't afford in the home they've bought in a gang-infiltrated Kansas City neighborhood. But, the have each other and hope for the future of their family. William, uneducated works a blue collar job and picks up extra HVAC work for neighbors and friends (
"I never charged anyone more than they could afford.") - he's a good man.

Fast-forward 27 years and younger son Malcolm (Alano Miller) has just finished his Master's at UConn and returned home to work for the EPA. Older son Ennis (Francois Battiste) hasn't demonstrated the same academic intellect and is preparing to become a father for the first time ("baby-daddy" as the kids might say). William's eyesight and health are failing from advancing MS and Ennis is looking for Malcolm to pick up the slack now that the baby's arrival is imminent. Malcolm wants to return to Connecticut to continue his environmental interest, which could lead to teaching at the college.

As William, Mr. Pierce doesn't look much older than his grown sons. He does have some nice emotional moments, but not many. The rest of his role is telegraphed pretty early in the first act. Mr. Miller's Malcolm doesn't fare quite as well. His language never sounds natural and we never get a real explanation as to how he managed to escape his family for college and grad school in the east. Ms. Dickinson's Sonia sashays on for a couple of dream-sequences. She does the best she can with her unevenly written material (one sequence delivered a pretty bizarre mood swing from loving to resentful back to loving in about 4 lines).

Mr. Battiste seems to handle the weak script with the most skill, finding some semblance of reality among the cliche's. (Pirates? Really?)

Donyale Werle's set cuts away to reveal the trusses and beams of the run-down house. Jason Lyons' lights work overtime to imbue more emotion than was originally written.

Yet, despite its weaknesses, it's a good thing that LCT continues to pursue and develop new material (Broke-ology originated at the Williamstown festival) for all three of its venues.

Mr. Jackson's story of role-reversal is familiar and compelling, but is hampered by poor dialogue and some structural elements that feels confusing.

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