Penelope Lowder (Pauline) and Leland Gantt (Frankie Masters)
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
As American perceptions on race are constantly changing, notions of identity continue to shift and require deeper understanding of historical context and social issues.Â “Another Man’s Poison,” is a play that attempts to tackle the complexities of Black masculinity in the racially charged Vietnam era of 1970 with all of the contemporary struggles of 2009.
The story follows father and television comedian Frankie Master’s (Leland Gantt) as he struggles to balance his commitment to his family with his new success in television playing a female character called Wilhelmena.Â Wilhelmena is much like Tyler Perry’s “Madea” a head strong know-it-all who’s unapologetically bold and loud.Â Â The conflict is centered around Frankie’s estranged relationship with his 19 year-old son Alan (James Edward Shippy) and his wife Pauline’s (Penelope Lowder) resistance to his career ambition.
Frankie’s success as a comedian has allowed his family to “move on up” in to a plush east-side apartment.Â Frankie takes great pride in what he’s been able to provide for his family and works long hours to on his new character Whilhelmena, knowing that if his character is a success, he can finally move his family to Hollywood.Â Pauline doesn’t share her husbands desire for a Hollywood life and wants him to spend more time with his son.Â She feels neglected and shows no interest in the “showbiz people” lifestyle.Â When Frankie’s manager Mel (Steve Greenstein) comes to convince Pauline to see a taping of the show, she is enraged to find Frankie acting out their family troubles on stage.
The play unfolds as the family continues to bump heads on the identity politics of Frankie’s gender bending comedy, the social issues of war and the meaning of sexuality.Â Unfortunately the writer, George O. Brome has a hard time advancing the plot without sometimes clumsily written monologues that are overbearing and seemingly come out of absolutely no where.Â The complexities of the characters inner struggles are revealed only in “confessional” moments; at certain points one might feel as though they are getting smacked over the face with dialogue.Â Â The play is weighed down by an immense amount of “preaching” instead of being driven by the interpersonal dynamics amongst the characters.
Running two hours with two ten-minute intermissions, the lack of brevity forces the writer to employ “surprise-ending” plot twists to keep the audience engaged.Â Unfortunately the shock-value was lost in the exhaustion of the actors after 90 minutes and their inability to emotionally reach for the pain and tension needed to make the audience truly empathetic.Â Another Man’s Poision was much like watching a floor routine in a gymnastics competition, there was plenty of flipping, tumbling and turning, but it never once felt quick or effortless.
For more info on the play and to purchase tickets, click here.
WORDS: Leigh Davenport
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