By Edward Kliszus
I WANT TO TELL SOMEBODY on the stage of the Theater for the New City was a heartwarming and heartbreaking biopic on the life and career of Ronald “Smokey” Stevens. We know Stevens as a gifted dancer, singer, author, and actor. Indeed, a bespoke Stevens danced, sang, and charmed his audience at the Theater of the New City. Naturally, he described his childhood in Washington D. C., his education and training, and shared highlights of his illustrious career. Then, he portrayed the anguish of his struggles with his cocaine-fueled alter ego named D Man. Hence, in a battle that eventually halted his career, ended his marriage, threatened his health, and landed him in prison.
Stevens became acquainted with D-Man while a young teenager when he became acquainted with marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol. Stevens next evolved through stages of experimentation, leading to a dependence on cocaine that was to sidetrack his dreams.
Backstage was set a large video screen used to share with the audience Smokey Stevens’s prestigious roles on television. We certainly saw him in movies, on Broadway, and with national and international tours. He certainly performed with stars like Michael Jackson, Charles Honi Coles, Lucille Ball, Cab Calloway, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee.
Two Distinct Characters
For 90 minutes, Stevens skillfully distinguished and embodied two distinct characters, himself and his alter ego, D Man. Furthermore, Stevens graphically portrayed each character’s peculiarities and motivations through physical, vocal, and emotional delineation. While navigating between the two contrasting mindsets, Stevens tapped into the psyche of his true self, portraying vulnerability, authenticity, and relatability. This occurred while simultaneously accessing the mindset of his malevolent alter ego of drug dependence, evil, manipulation, and danger. Moreover, it was always clear which character spoke as Stevens seamlessly transitioned between the two roles. He thus ensured each character remained distinct and recognizable as he maintained their unique mannerisms, speech patterns, physicality, and gestures.
Remarkable and Unforgettable
It was comforting to realize Stevens was here on stage with the vitality and dynamism needed for such a demanding, intimately personal role. His elegance, charisma, singing, physical grace, and presence were captivating, engaging, truly remarkable, and unforgettable.
Ronald “Smokey” Stevens’s remarkable story began with a youth’s hazy dreams, promises, and aspirations and how he lost almost everything through addiction. The interactions between Stevens and D Man were authentic, gripping, intriguing, and sometimes horrifying.
The production boasted excellent sets, blocking, costumes, videography and photo design, lighting, and sound.
From a bottomless pit of prison and despair, Stevens mustered sobriety and hope powered by a renewed, unwavering determination, self-worth, confidence, and passion for his craft. His life became a transformative journey of recovery, growth, and personal empowerment. He crushed his alter ego, D Man, and broke free, becoming a beacon of resilience and strength. Ronald “Smokey” Stevens is a superbly gifted raconteur with an authentic, inspirational story for everyone that must be told.
THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY PRESENTS “I JUST WANT TO TELL SOMEBODY” BY SMOKEY STEVENS
Written by RONALD SMOKEY STEVENS
(additional writings by Carol Mumin)
Stephen Byrd, Director and Set Designer
Alexander Bartenieff, Tech Director and Lighting Designer
Larry Law, Audio and Visual Media Designer
David “Oggie” Ogburn, Digital Photo Design
M. Anthony “Tony” Green, D Man Sound Design
WHERE AND WHEN
June 1-18, 2023
Theater for the New City
155 First Ave (at E. 10th Street)
New York, NY 10003
Presented by The Theater for the New City
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM
$18 gen. Adm., $15 seniors & students
Box office: www.theaterforthenewcity.net, 212-254-1109