If you ask me…

- Tom Holehan


“Resurrection”, the new play by Daniel Beatty at Hartford Stage, is a sincere, well-intentioned but finally overwrought melodrama about what the playwright calls, “the aching heart of the black man”. The play, which had a workshop production at Hartford Stage last season, could have used a few more drafts. As it is now, it really has no business as part of a professional theatre’s season. It actually might be more at home in a church hall.

Written like an African-American After-School Special, “Resurrection” introduces five black men: Mr. Rogers (Michael Genet), who runs a money-losing health food store in the ghetto, The Bishop (Jeffrey V. Thompson), a gregarious and much-loved preacher harboring a food addiction, Isaac (Alvin Keith), his successful though closeted ad man son, 'Twon (Turron Kofi Alleyne), Isaac’s young protégé who is suffering anxiety over being accepted to Morehouse College and Dre (Che Ayende), a former drug-addict working for Mr. Rogers and expecting a child who may or may not be HIV positive. There is also Mr. Rogers’ son, Eric (Thuliso Dingwall), a bright 10-year-old aspiring scientist who is determined to cure “the aching heart” with his special herbal iced tea concoctions.

Mr. Beatty has written what was once called the “kitchen sink drama” as each man goes through his personal resurrection in dealing with his demons. It’s both cornball and melodramatic; overwrought sequences of high tension switch clumsily to The Bishop’s comical obsession with Ho-Hos (the chocolate cream cakes are mentioned so often during the play, I half expected to see Hostess listed as one of the sponsors!) Issues of self-esteem, body image, absentee fathers, homosexuality and birth control are delivered with a hatchet not a scalpel (borrowing from current election year speak), and there is never any doubt that this intermissionless, 90-minute play is heading for synthetic, phony uplift by curtain.

The adult performances, however, can not be faulted especially Mr. Keith, whose sensitive gay Buppie almost rises above the clichés. Mr. Thompson also gets and deserves the lion’s share of the laughs while Mr. Ayende executes real anguish about the fate of his child. The best that can be said about young Mr. Dingwall, though, is that he can be heard clearly from the back of the house.

Some of the messages that “Resurrection” delivers with emphatic urgency are still worth hearing especially its warning about teen pregnancy. Still, one wishes that director Oz Scott had searched harder for some subtlety in staging and working through this preachy, obvious and self-satisfied new work.

“Resurrection" is scheduled at Hartford Stage until November 16th. For ticket reservations call the box office at 860.527.5151 or visit: www.hartfordstage.org.

Tom Holehan is co-founder of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tom@stratford.lib.ct.us. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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