Mud Row Receives Awesome Premiere at People’s Light
One of the most exciting things for those of us who review theater is when we get to see a world premiere. I was privileged to catch the opening night performance of Dominique Morisseau’s Mud Row. Morisseau was the playwright of the critically acclaimed production of Skeleton Crew which was performed on this stage last year. She is a playwright whose star is ascending and has provided the audience with another poignant, yet funny examination of real life.
The play developed out of the New Play Frontiers, “a long-term initiative to develop locally-inspired plays and meaningful community connections.” Director Steve Broadnax has been with the project nearly from its inception and it shows. He takes a serious and sensitive matter and deftly puts it into the hands of his outstanding cast to create quality theater that is both humorous and poignant.
Mud Row is a play about an African American family near West Chester, PA. It covers three generations although the matriarch never appears, Morisseau gives us just enough information to understand the motivation of her ancestors. Her first daughter is Elsie played with class and hope by Tiffany Rachelle Stewart and her sister, Frances played by Gillian Glasco an activist and a loving sister. Here we learn the background of the family and learn that they are trying to escape the past with little success. She does so by contrasting the sisters as a social climber and a social reformer.
As the story progresses, we meet Elsie’s two daughters in modern day. The object of their concern is an abandoned house that had been originally bought by their grandmother with the money from her prostitution. Nikkole Salter plays Regine. She and her husband Davin (Bjorn DuPaty) have lived a successful life thus far. They inherited the house and must now figure out what to do with it.
In contrast, daughter Toshi (Renika Williams) and her boyfriend Tyriek (Eric Robinson Jr.) are creatures of the drug ridden streets. She is trying to turn her life around by living in the family house. The show winds its way through the interaction of the two sisters, their angst and their growth. All the actors are making their People’s Light debuts. They are uniformly excellent, and I hope we get to see them again in future productions. Director Broadnax shapes their skills into the wonderful story that is Mud Row.
Michael Carnahan’s detailed set gives a wonderful sense of the time and place while Kathy Perkin’s lighting cleverly establishes a delineation of then and now. This is complemented also by Shilla Benning’s costumes. The production is strong on all levels. It is the level of quality that has established People’s Light and Theatre as one of the area’s finest professional theaters. Mud Row runs through July 28 at People’s Light, 39 Conestoga Rd., Malvern, Pennsylvania. 610-644-3500 or https://www.peopleslight.org/
Pictured: Nikkole Salter, Bjorn DuPaty, Eric Robinson Jr., and Renika Williams with photo by Mark Garvin