By David Walters
For 30 years, Obie-winning Metropolitan Playhouse has been presenting the cacophony of life in America through both new plays and long-forgotten past plays, exhibiting the complicated historical context of this country. They are currently presenting three one-acts entitled She’s Got Harlem on Her Mind by forgotten prize-winning playwright Eulalie Spence, a theatrical leader during the Harlem Renaissance. She is someone we should all reacquaint ourselves with.
Having never heard of Ms. Spence, this writer was quite impressed by the minimalism of story and exposition, instead relying on the depth of human psychology of her characters. She believed that, “We go to the theatre for entertainment,” and through her work presented that entertainment in her plays by not making her people stock caricatures, but giving them a truth in their behavior that is filled by living breathing human beings without judgment. The depth of her characters surprised me.
What I liked about Ms. Spence’s plays is that they were real people living, with no apologies and no preaching. Love doesn’t always win, people can be shits, but we keep going.
The three plays deal with life in the 20s in Harlem. The Starter, about a young couple exploring the option of marriage and finding that neither is ready to take their head out of the sand and embrace the reality of that step, Hot Stuff, a hustler’s world guided by greed is exposed and comes crashing down around her, and The Hunch, a future dream gets smashed by truthful reality, and we often would rather hold onto our dream rather than face that truth.
What’s difficult about her work is that it requires a very good director and good actors, with depth, personal presence, and a skill set to be able to make her work sing. Jazmyn D Boone and Dontonio Demarco were able to get closest to singing her song.
Acting classes should use her plays because it requires real work to flush out a life, to fully fill and color her characters as truthful human beings and make it seem effortless. She requires a lot out of her actors and guidance from a director to be able to sink into their roles, knowing that when they do touch bottom, they are dancing atop a symphony.
She’s Got Harlem on Her Mind – Three Plays By Eulalie Spence, Directed by Timothy Johnson.
WITH Eric Berger, Jazmyn D Boone, Dontonio Demarco, Déja Denise Green, SJ Hannah, Raven Jeannette, Monique Paige, and Terrell Wheeler.
The creative team includes Vincent Gunn (set design), Jevyn Nelms (costume design), Leslie Gray (lighting design), Katie Bradley (intimacy and fight direction), Mary Caitlyn Deffely (stage manager), and Julie Gottfried (assistant stage manager).
She’s Got Harlem on Her Mind is only running through March 12 at the Metropolitan Playhouse, located at 220 East Fourth Street in Manhattan. The performance schedule is Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. General admission tickets are $30 ($25 seniors, $20 students, $10 children) and can be purchased at https://metropolitanplayhouse.org or by calling 800-838-3006.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.