At the Signature Theatre located at 480 West 42nd Street. It runs until March 25, 2012. The show runs two hours and forty minutes with one intermission.
Katori Hall is an African American playwright, journalist and actress from Memphis, Tennessee. She wrote Mountaintop which won an Laurence Olivier Award on March 2010 for Best New Play. She is the first African American women in the history of the award to win for Best New Play. It just finished a successful run on Broadway with Samuel Jackson and Angela Bassett.
Hurt Village won the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Award. This award was established in 1978 and is given annually to recognized women who have written outstanding plays in the English speaking theatre.
The play takes place in the Hurt Village projects in Memphis Tennessee. It's the end of the summer.
Great grandmother "Big Mama" (Tonya Pinkins) is trying to keep what's left of her family together. The project where she is living is about to be torn down. She is supposed to be moving someplace else and the family is packing. The other occupants of the apartment are her grandson's ex girl friend Crank (Marsha Stephanie Blake) a twenty six year old hair dresser and her thirteen year daughter Cookie (Joaquina Kalukango). She is Big Mama granddaughter.
Her grandson Buggy (Corey Hawkins) shows up after being in the army for ten years. He is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Buggy is Cookie's father.
Cornbread (Nicholas Christopher) is Cranks lover and Buggy's friend. Toyia (Saycon Sengbloh) is Crank's friend and Cornbread's girl friend.
When big Mama finds out that she makes $365 over the limit for the public housing she's in despair. She has no place to go.
Cornbread and Buggy decide they'll raise money by selling drugs in the projects. They enlist their friend Skillet (Lloyd Watts) to help them. The drug lord of the projects Tony C (Ron Cephas Jones) is not to happy about this. He sends his helper Ebony (Charles Hudson III) after them. To say the least things get real bad before they get good.
This is a heart wrenching story of hope of finally getting out of the drug infected projects they live in, of Cookie having a better life then then the people whose lives she knows.
The cast is so convincing that they take on the characters lives so well. You feel so bad for big Mama, you wish you could help her. Joaquina had me fooled she was thirteen. Her rapping was great.
The one thing I did not like was they talked so fast at times, I mean fast, that I had trouble understanding what they said. Maybe it was the slang words that were used some times. The other point they never told you why Buggy got a dishonorable discharge.
This may not be the play for everyone. But if you are up to a heart breaking down to earth play about about an African American family then you should see this play before it ends. It's worth it.
Review by Rozanna Radakovich.
Photos by Annazor.