Solzhenitsyn (among others) said “write what you know.” Though it’s a long way from the Gulag, the Kansas City, KS Nathan Louis Jackson knows– and serves up in his new play BROKE-OLOGY (now through March 21 at KC Rep’s downtown Copaken Stage)– rings every bit as comically and poignantly true as the Russian literary giant’s wind-swept Siberia. Though it may be cold outside, indoors the warmth and even joy of life drives us forward, hoping for mo and better.
Jackson’s tale is a simple one. Two brothers have to deal with their father’s failing health. An exceptional dramatist can turn this simple prescription into a mine field or a love fest. The really exceptional ones– Jackson included– get it all.
Under Kyle Hatley’s capable direction, a terrific cast brings Jackson’s language to wonderful life. As Pop in the center of things, David Emerson Toney is revelatory– lashing out against the terrible tide of MS, straining to hold his family together, yet still able to swing and sway to a great old Temps tune. Is it “just my imagination,” or is this guy as good as anybody we’ve seen on the Rep stage this season?
And it doesn’t stop with the old man. Postell Pringle as Ennis (the son working a KCK barbeque joint) lights up the stage whenever we stops by. He has that just-under-the-surface explosive energy that keeps an audience on its toes. Is he going to hit somebody? Did he really steal that lawn ornament? And what’s the matter at home? Pringle’s intensity juggles it all with the kind of focus and clarity you see in much more seasoned performers.
Larry Powell does a nice turn as Malcolm, the returning son not ready to give up his life to Wyandotte County. It’s his arc– from going to staying and back again– that keeps us glued to BROKE-OLOGY. Shamika Cotton as the fetching Sonia, the boy’s mother and (more important) the light of Pop’s life, brings a welcome softness and sensuality to the proceedings. When she’s dancing with her man, he sheds all of that weight and hardship; we know where he’s been and how hard it is to have left it.
Technical contributions were all first rate, though I thought some of the lighting–especially in Pop’s dream sequences with Sonia– was a bit murky. But that set