By David Walters

As human beings, we’re stuck in many parts of our lives. Stuck in the past, stuck in our upbringing, stuck in how we fool ourselves about who we think we are.
The Negro Ensemble Company is presenting an evening coupling comedy and drama that looks at our stuckness, in the one-act play festival entitled, Our Voices, Our Time at The Cherry Lane studio theatre now through November 6, 2022.
It’s a thought-provoking evening of great writing encompassing comedy and pathos that will leave you thankful that you came out, that you shared together our united humanity.
Imprisoned by the chains of “What If…”,  a mother, stuck in the hospital where she works and separated from her only child by hundreds of miles, struggles with her daughter and herself to keep her safe during a street protest. In this touching play about mother-love, Alyssa Carter, as the daughter Kiandra, exposes the depths of loss, distance, and the discovery of what she stands for, creating a compelling and highly watchable performance that exhibits a truthful humanity that is often difficult to portray.
Khadija Bangoura, as Mary Katherine, and Bernard Scudder as Ade in I Don’t Do That, expertly chaperone the audience on a hilarious ride of relationship discovery as a young couple is discovering differences between them that stem from culture, gender, and upbringing.

“Do you know what a barbershop is to a black man? A refuge, A safe place. A home.” But this safe place is no longer safe as Moe’s neighborhood barbershop, in Clipper Cut Nation, is the scene of an inner, buried tragedy that has never been spoken of and never been released. Steven Jacoby as Sanford, a bereft father, brings the pain of loss that has been held tightly for years and years, never going too far, but skillfully allowing the audience to experience his pain walking along beside him.

Tying these three stories together are the struggles of our lives, our histories, where we’ve come from, how we’ve lived, our choices, and our personal outlooks.
All three playwrights write strong dialogue and confidently bring the struggles of humanity to their work, illustrating it with skill that doesn’t keep the audience at arm’s length creating a show-and-tell, but brings them in with loving care as we journey along with the characters.
A good assembly of talent at one of New York’s loveliest theaters.
The Negro Ensemble Company presents Our Voices, Our Time, playing at The Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, NYC 10014. Tickets here.

Clipper Cut Nation, Written by Cris Eli Blak, Directed by Ralph McCain, Starring: Benjamin Row, Abel Santiago, Alton Ray, and Steven P. Jacoby

What If, Written by Cynthia Grace Robinson, Directed by Daniel Carlton, Starring: Sandra F. Williams, and Alyssa Carter
I Don’t Do That, Written by Mona R. Washington, Directed by Petronia Paley, Starring: Alleyne Owen, Alyssa Carter, Khadija Banjoura, and Bernard Scuddder
As always, this is just one man’s opinion in a world filled with them.