“Broke-ology” – Black Theatre Troupe

Theater Review – February 20, 2017


Black Theatre Troupe, Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center
Phoenix, AZ

After years of mediocre theater, a new home stimulated Black Theatre Troupe to improve some of its productions.  But not everything BTT does is artfully produced as is the case with “Broke-ology,” the current play.

On the surface, “Broke-ology,” defined in the show’s press release as “being broke and staying alive despite your brokenness,” sounds fascinating.  The probing 2009 Nathan Louis Jackson play debuted at Lincoln Center but Anthony Runfola’s meandering local staging never catches fire.  The ploddingly directed production drags unmercifully as the performers amble about without pizzazz and never become ingratiated to the play’s message.

About an urban Black family who live a hard life with the father and two sons holding steady jobs but they survive marginally in an old house in a bad part of town.  The family chatters about important issues including integration but the sagging performances suggest the family got what it deserves even though he play seems to say the hard-working family should have gone farther but their color held them back.

The play’s set in the family home where the three men talk around a table on one side of the stage where director Runfola allows the actors to boringly gather with little movement so the play never throbs about the playwright’s message that life isn’t fair.

Mike Traylor is best as father William who displays his character’s disappointment.  Christopher Dozier as Malcolm, the son obsessed with his education, doesn’t carry audiences along with much conviction.  Rapheal Hamilton’s Ennis, the more pragmatic son, works hard to care for a mouthy wife and a baby.  Hamilton demonstrates his tense but understanding relationship with his father.  The family’s long dead mother and wife, Sonia, appears throughout the play in poorly defined flashback sequences that are initially confusing because of the jumbled staging.  Melvina Jones performance in the role is too positive for a woman who confesses that her life disappoints and that she feels trapped.

A warning.  Don’t arrive early for “Broke-ology” because theatergoers other than season subscribers aren’t admitted until 10 minutes before the performance begins.  Keeping audiences out of the theater makes it difficult for theatergoers huddled in the lobby waiting for general seating.  Fortunately the less than sold-out crowd at Friday’s performance allowed even late comers access to decent seats.  “Broke-ology” should have been interesting but the sloppy production hurts it.  “Broke-ology” continues through Sunday (February 26).  To order tickets, call the Black Theatre Troupe box office at 602-258-8129 or order tickets online at www.blacktheatretroupe.org.

Grade: D