BWW Review: TOO HEAVY FOR YOUR POCKET at GSP-A Riveting Civil Rights Drama Excellently Performed
"I want my name to mean something when I go on to glory."
By Bowsie in Too Heavy for Your Pocket
Too Heavy for Your Pocket is now on stage at George Street Playhouse (GSP) through May 19. This wonderfully crafted play by Jiréh Breon Holder received the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award, which honors the work of an emerging writer each year. It enjoys the superb direction of LA Williams and features a marvelous four-person cast that brings an important and moving story to life. In his opening night address to the audience, the Playhouse's Artistic Director, David Saint called it a "beautiful, beautiful play." We agree. The production is an ideal selection to close GSP's successful 2018/2019 season.
Too Heavy for Your Pocket is set in Nashville, Tennessee in the summer of 1961. Bowzie and his wife, Evelyn share a close friendship with Sally-Mae and her husband, Tony. Both of the young couples have plans to build their families and their futures in despite financial and personal struggles. When Bowzie receives a college scholarship and attends classes, he meets students involved in the civil rights movement. Against the wishes of Evelyn, Bowzie leaves school to join the Freedom Riders, a group of activists who ride interstate buses to challenge segregation. Bowzie's decision is brave and bold, as the Freedom Riders are threatened with violence and imprisonment along their journeys. The story tells of Bowzie's deep desire to prove the "dignity" of black Americans and also provides an intimate and often spirited portrait of the characters.
The cast is awe-inspiring. The play stars Donnell E. Smith in the role of Bowzie Brandon. He is joined by Joniece Abbott-Pratt as Sally-Mae Carter; Felicia Boswell as Evelyn Brandon; and Landon G. Woodson as Tony Carter. The characters are so genuine that audiences will feel as though the story is unfolding in real time. They capture the mood of Jiréh Breon Holder's compelling play with its joy and hardships. Memorable scenes include Sally-Mae's graduation day; Sally-Mae and Tony presenting Bowsie with a handsome suit for college; Bowsie telling his wife and friends of his decision to join the Freedom Riders; Bowsie reading aloud his heartfelt letters to Evelyn; Sally-Mae and Evelyn discussing motherhood; Sally-Mae and Tony preparing to attend a revival meeting; Evelyn's passionate singing performance; and Bowsie's reflections when he is in prison.
The Creative Team has done a top-notch job of bringing Too Heavy for Your Pocket to the New Brunswick stage with set design by Wilson Chin; costume design by Asa Benally; lighting design by Jason Lyons; sound design by Chris Lane; and wig design by Nikiya Mathis. The Dialect Coach is Nathan C. Crocker; the Vocal Coach and Music Director is Nat Adderley, Jr.; and the Fight Director is Michael Jerome Johnson. The Stage Manager is Nicole Kuker. Casting is by McCorkle Casting, Ltd.
As the struggle for civil rights and human rights continues in our country, Too Heavy for Your Pocket is a show that must be seen and appreciated. We congratulate George Street Playhouse for making the production available to metro area audiences.
Tickets for Too Heavy for Your Pocket begin at $25. For more information, visit the George Street Playhouse website at https://georgestreetplayhouse.org/ or call the box office at 732-246-7717. The show is being performed in the Playhouse's temporary location at 103 College Farm Road in New Brunswick. Audiences are encouraged to buy now to secure their seats. Subscription packages for the 2019/2020 are now available.
Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson