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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 4 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 40
Save your pennies - Well-intentioned Broke-ology offers few new insights on race or aging
Arts & Entertainment
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Save your pennies - Well-intentioned Broke-ology offers few new insights on race or aging

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

BROKE-OLOGY
SEATTLE PUBLIC THEATER
Through October 20


Seattle Public Theater is currently presenting a solidly acted and directed play, Broke-ology, by Nathan Louis Jackson. It's about a small family - husband, wife, two sons - whose rhythm is shifting due to aging. Since it's being produced in association with the Hansberry Project, it's a 'Black' play, though there is virtually nothing in it that distinguishes itself, beyond a little language, from families of any other ethnicity.

The four actors - father William (Troy Allen Johnson), mother Sonia (Amber Wolfe Wollam), son Ennis (Corey Spruill), and son Malcolm (Tyler Trerise) - are a talented bunch. Director Valerie Curtis-Newton has a sure and experienced hand. The technical support, from the homey but rundown set by Craig Wollam to warm lighting by Tim Wratten, sound from Harry Todd Jamieson, and character-apt costuming from Melanie Taylor Burgess, provide continuity and proper ambiance.

The play focuses on the King family some years after Sonia has died and Malcolm has just returned from earning a master's degree to the cramped family home in a poor neighborhood. William's health has been failing, as he walks deeper into Parkinson's disease and more numerous hospitalizations. Ennis has been doing the bulk of the caretaking and is relieved that Malcolm is now there to help.

The brothers' relationship is fun to watch and has some amusing dialogue, though their rivalry is not much more than stereotypical. A more satisfying relationship is established through flashbacks of Sonia and William together in what was clearly a solid marriage. William's longing for Sonia is palpable.

PLEASANT BUT SHALLOW
The play does not really address nursing homes and alternatives in depth, alluding to the need rather than examining the decision-making. We pretty much know what is going to happen and there are few surprises. So, unfortunately, while it's a pleasant experience, this play breaks zero new ground and does not really advance the public or cultural discussion of aging and how to manage its consequences.

There is a subplot about the sons being trapped in the neighborhood, with Ennis finding out his girlfriend is pregnant while he works at a restaurant job, and Malcolm feeling trapped back in the neighborhood by the pressure to assume responsibility for his father, rather than advance the career his master's degree opens up for him. Again, it's not in depth and does not illuminate the subject.

So, it's rather like a TV movie on Hallmark or Lifetime or BET - a nice way to spend a couple of hours if what you seek is something reliable and unchallenging. While SPT and the Hansberry Project have linked the play to the subject of 'race,' and arguably the dialogue has the dialect of race embedded in it, this play just doesn't bring a unique flavor to the conversation. For more information, go to www.seattlepublictheater.org or call (206) 524-1300.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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