nytheatre.com review by Chance Muehleck
How promising theatre is when it
attempts to look unflinchingly at marginalized lives. How frustrating,
then, when the experience becomes mired in predictability and confusion.
With Like Brothas, a harsh new full-length play running at PS
122, Hugh Fletcher certainly has his points to make about ghetto life;
but his rambling, patchwork script and awkward direction do little to
engage the hearts and minds of the uninitiated.
August 15, 2002
Things begin well. We meet Malik (a forceful Jonathan Anderson) playing dominoes with his gangland friend Rey (Daryl Watson) and Rey’s eager younger brother Jay (Charles Harrison). The three communicate with such ease that an improv-like quality emerges, effectively belying the danger underneath. Drugs are a constant companion here, and we discover that Malik is as addicted to using them as he is to selling them. Soon, however, we move into more expected territory as Malik’s estranged wife Regina (Alison Campbell) appears, demanding money for the son he never sees. We also learn that Malik’s murdered brother Rico founded the very gang that our main character now controls, albeit shakily. Then there’s Malik’s father (Arnold Sidney), a crack addict who tries scoring from his son and has a gun stuck in his face for his trouble.
None of these relationships are allowed to develop much beyond their plot points. There is the intermittent monologue where we are told things the writer was apparently not interested in expressing with dialogue (though Malik’s is quite powerful, weaving together his views on gang life and Martin Luther King in a courageous act of public confession). Characters come and go, deflecting the story and muddying the staging. Most disappointing is the lack of attention to detail and clear dramatic purpose; during the show, someone in the front row actually got up and opened the stage right door, only to emerge as a gang member in the next scene (did Fletcher think this wouldn’t be distracting?).
Watson fares best under these circumstances; as the action progressed, and I became increasingly annoyed with Malik’s one angry note, I turned to Rey for some balance and complexity of feeling. But I wanted more from the tale itself, as part of a genre so fraught withcliches. I am hopeful that A Darker Hue Productions will learn from this production’s weaknesses, for there is obvious commitment among its members.