Review: TROUBLE IN MIND at Seat Of Pants Productions

Seae of Pants' TROUBLE IN MIND, is rich experience that is disturbing and thought-provoking!

By: Nov. 07, 2023
Review: TROUBLE IN MIND at Seat Of Pants Productions

The late-Alice Childress, the author of TROUBLE IN MIND, now being staged by Seat of the Pants Productions, was an American novelist, playwright, and actress, who was acknowledged as the only African-American woman to have written, produced, and published plays for four decades.

Childress described her work as “trying to portray the have-nots in a have society.”

As she explained, "My writing attempts to interpret the 'ordinary' because they are not ordinary. Each human is uniquely different. Like snowflakes, the human pattern is never cast twice. We are uncommonly and marvelously-intricate in thought and action. Our problems are most complex and, too often, silently borne."

Billed as “a moving and heartbreaking look at racism, identity and ego,” TROUBLE IN MIND is a scathing indictment of racism in America and American commercial theatre.

It tells the story of Wiletta Mayer, an African-American actress cast in a supposedly “progressive” play about racism by a white male author.  

The script and the job turn-out to be anything but progressive, both in terms of its script and rehearsal environment.

TROUBLE IN MIND had a strange route to Broadway.  The original Off-Broadway production was sponsored by the Village Presbyterian Church and the Brotherhood Synagogue in 1995.  In 1957, a Broadway transfer had been planned, renamed SO EARLY MONDAY MORNING, but the production was cancelled when the author refused to subdue its content.

TROUBLE IN MIND finally made its Broadway debut on November 18, 2021. The limited run closed on January 9, 2022, after 58 performances and 20 previews. The production was nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Play.

“Set during rehearsals for a major Broadway production, TROUBLE IN MIND illuminates the inner life of a Black actress struggling with her career.  As Wiletta grapples with how she's treated, the role she's being asked to play, and what the production says (or doesn't) about race in America, her growing discomfort sets off a chain of events that reveal fissures within The Acting Company — and bring her into conflict with her director.”

Effectively directed by Jeannine Gaskin, the production takes lots of twists and turns, allowing the observer to examine their attitudes toward race, feminism, prejudices and white male privilege.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in states of repeated conflict not only by your feelings toward the characters, but by your own attitudes.

Cleveland Critics Best Actress in a Musical award winner, Nicole Sumlin, is superb as Wiletta. Her climax speech, in which she expresses the author’s strong beliefs on the way in which black people, especially African Americans, both women and men, are negated by attitudinal views, and how women, in general, must be all that men are, plus some, just to be viewed as equal.

Tom Woodward, who also has been lauded by the Cleveland Critics Circle, is so effective in his characterization of the “villainous white man” who is unaware of his bullying methods and strong prejudices, that there were times when anything less than hitting him over the head with a two-by-four wouldn’t have been enough to knock some sense into him. 

Strong performances were also presented by Elizabeth Domer (Judy), Andrew Knode (Bill), Madison Ledyard-King (John), Michael Montanus (Eddie), Zyrece Montgomery (Millie), Tom Stephan (Henry), and Darryl Tatum (Sheldon).

Costume design by Marti Coles, lighting design by Ayron Lord, props design by Mia Jones, sound design by Aria Smith, and scenic construction by Christian Sanko all enhanced the production.  The use of an electronic projection on the back wall, was especially effective.

Capsule judgment:  The company’s use of an intensive rehearsal period known as “process driven production method,” paid off.  There is no doubt of clear character development, smooth flow of action, and meaningful stage pictures.  All in all, the show makes for both a rich experience regarding evaluating yours and societal attitudes, as well as a fine theatrical experience!  This is must see theatre!

TROUBLE IN MIND runs November 3-19, 2023 (Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM / Sundays at 2:30 PM) @The Pivot Center, 2937 West 25th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113.  For tickets:

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