BWW Review: World Premiere of BREAD at WaterTower Theatre
The world premiere of BREAD by, Dallas-based playwright Regina Taylor, is a snapshot in the life of the Bakers - an African American family living in Dallas' South Oak Cliff neighborhood. The play is set in January of 2017 as the family's matriarch, a very pregnant Ruth Baker (Stormi Demerson), worries about the world she is bringing a new son into. Her husband, James Baker (Djoré Nance), struggles with unemployment after a recent layoff and considers opportunities for securing his family's financial future. Meanwhile, their son Junior (Elliot Marvin Sims) has his sights set on becoming a spoken word artist and has just been accepted into Southern Methodist University, where his family hopes he will pursue a more practical career.
Directed by Leah C. Gardiner, the play is a well-paced ninety minutes with no intermission. The story manages to comment on issues of racial inequality including segregation, police brutality, and gentrification without becoming pedantic. BREAD takes place primarily in the Bakers' living room - with a deceptively simple set (designed by Clare Floyd Devries) that offers a few satisfying surprises as the plot advances. With the open design of the set, most of the actors are visible throughout the play - even when the scene is not focused on them. This arrangement allows the audience to learn more about each character as the relationships between them develop.
A well-rounded cast brings this character-centered story to life. Djoré Nance strikes just the right note of tension as Mr. Baker tries to make difficult decisions for the family's future. Similarly, Stormi Demerson is immediately endearing as a fiercely protective mother attempting to maintain the life she has helped build for her family. And Elliot Marvin Sims gives a fantastic performance as Junior, delivering each line of dialogue and poetry with precision. Aside from the family of three (soon to be four), Calvin Scott Roberts, Bryan Pitts, and M. Denise Lee all give memorable performances as friends and family whose stories intersect with the Bakers' during this glimpse into their lives. While a few lines from key players were a bit shaky on press night, audience members easily forgave these small errors in light of the genuine emotion brought to the portrayals of each character.
For theatergoers seeking a thoughtful commentary on the life of a modern (and local) family, this show is highly recommended. BREAD continues at WaterTower Theatre in Addison through Sunday, May 6th. Tickets available at https://watertowertheatre.org/event/bread/2018-04-13#tickets.