A timely philosophical narrative

By: Mar. 18, 2022


On one side of the stage there is a tony law office with its desks, books and golf clubs. The opposite side is a representation of a poor urban neighborhood. Garbage litters the ground. Stark contrasts between the "haves" and the "have nots" are on full display in the new play Sometime Child: a Reclamation and a Redemption.

John Stanley is a successful lawyer and a do-gooder. He writes large checks for the unfortunate but steers clear of any physical contact such as attending a charity dinner. His office straddles a sketchy part of town. Despite his apparent wealth he parks his car a distance away to save on fees. One evening his is mugged and beaten badly by two high school dropouts.

Clarence and Bobby are the products of severely broken homes. Clarence is barely scraping by as a janitor in a hospital. Bobby's line of work "gets me lots of Benjamins". He is a petty thief and the boastful leader of this duo. He seems satisfied with his life; surviving or thriving depending on the day.

Lawyer John lands in the hospital where Clarence works. A tentative rapport begins to develop between them. He gives Clarence the book Moby Dick to read at home. While the selection of that Melville novel seems wildly farfetched due to its infamously complex prose, the relationship organically meshes as they bond over the novel. The character of Queequeg becomes a catalyst for discussing race. The evolving chemistry between the actors Stephan Morrow and the younger Walker Clermont is first-rate.

As you might expect, there is a generational divide between them besides their socioeconomic differences. John describes his nurse (Irma Cadiz) as a "combination of Nurse Ratchett and Hot Lips Houlihan". It's hard to imagine Clarence having any idea what he is talking about. The cultural gap may be wide but the two find some common ground. This purposeful tale progresses to one in which empathy and communication are proffered as a pathway to meaningful change.

A Teen Chorus is employed to comment on the action. They follow the tribulations of Clarence and Bobby and demonstrate how older role models influence the community both positively and negatively. They "read" headlines which define their world and its overwhelming challenges. The chorus is lightly goofy and humorous. What seems silly and ridiculous at first progresses into a charming device to keep the story from becoming heavy handed and also relatable to a younger audience.

Richard Bruce's play is certainly commenting on our inequitable society. What makes this story compelling is its focus on demonstrating the power of an individual's capacity to reach across the divide. On both sides. There is a beautifully realized section commenting on our various English dialects that nails the point firmly.

The storyline contains interesting twists and turns which not only propel the plot forward but also provide challenging opportunities for character growth. I saw a multi-million dollar Broadway show about race and circumstance the night before I saw Sometime Child. This off-off Broadway production was far more emotionally engaging and clearly had a point of view.

Director Morrow (who is also the lawyer) nicely balances the tonal shifts of Mr. Bruce's thoughtful piece. The Greek chorus could be integrated even further into the production. They sit on the sidelines with repetitive entrances and exits. There are a number of set changes in which they could be employed to physically intermingle and more directly underscore the well articulated messages of this play. All four of them were amusing, however, and Ciara Chanel Allen was a particular standout.

The story arc was effective due to excellent performances by Walker Clermont as Clarence and his two main points of contact. His two central relationships with troubled Bobby (Liam Kyle McGowan) and the aggressively helpful John Stanley (Mr. Morrow) are soundly rendered and expand fittingly.

The opening and ending scenes are slightly clunky to kick things off and wrap them up but the goals for this philosophical narrative are clearly realized in this staging. In a world where solutions seem impossible, Sometime Child exists to inspire and provoke.

Sometime Child: A Reclamation and a Redemption is running at the Theater for the New City through March 27, 2022.

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