Theatre Information

Richmond Triangle Players/Sycamore Rouge Before It Hits Home

By • Jan 28th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Before It Hits Home
Richmond Triangle Players Web Info and Sycamore Rouge Web Info
Richmond Triangle Players Theatre Information, Richmond, VA
Through February 9th (Feb. 22 – Mar. 10th at Sycamore Rouge)
2:15 with one intermission
Reviewed January 24th, 2013

As I begin my fourth month of reviewing theater in the Richmond area for, I am still amazed by just how blessed this area is with its vast and diverse theater offerings. And blessed is an excellent term for the shows I will be reviewing this month. Sixteen theaters are presenting 18 shows as a part of the “Acts of Faith Festival.”

Among them is Before It Hits Home by Cheryl L. West (a Co-production of Richmond Triangle Players and Sycamore Rouge). Winner of the Helen Hayes Award for best new play, Before It Hits Home tells the story of a black bisexual jazz musician whose life on the down-low endangers both himself and his loved ones.

Themes include seeking faith and strength from God, warning people to be careful how they “weigh a man,” and thinking for yourself in regards to morals and values. The play poignantly portrays how certain prejudices are still sadly socially acceptable. For instance, even in an African-American family which would be incensed if someone used the “N-word,” it is ok to joke about “fags.” In a society where classism is frowned upon, it is still ok to look down on and fear those with AIDS.

The entire cast did an excellent job in both their pacing and characterizations, creating a truly believable family unit, and very realistic supporting characters. Delvin Young, as the main character of Wendal, was best when displaying Wendal’s anger, confusion and denial. My only suggestions would be to try to show more of his softer side and vulnerability early in the play to make Wendal a more empathetic character. Also, as he becomes more comfortable in the role, hopefully transitions both in emotion as well as his coughing fits will come more naturally.

Toney Cobb was very strong as Wendal’s father Bailey. At times, he was a comical, almost George Jefferson-like father, but by the end, his emotional range in showing the pain and anguish of a father was excellent. Belinda Todd as Wendal’s mother Reba seemed a bit nervous at times and struggled with some of her dialogue, but also admirably showed Reba’s range of emotions and core beliefs. Young and Cobb hit some rough spots in their dialogue as well, especially in scenes where multiple action was juxtaposed in two separate scenes with overlapping dialogue. I am sure this will continue to improve as the run of the show continues.

My theater companion for the evening, Brent, pointed out that some of the strongest performances were actually reserved for the supporting actors. Carolyn Mohr, Jasmine Hammond, and Todd Patterson all added great energy to each scene they were in. Thomas E. Nowlin was especially strong in his emotional range and pain as Wendal’s secret lover, Douglass. Jennifer Krisch showed great range in mixing the Doctor’s humor and dedication with her anger and exhaustion. Karla Brown was a scene stealer with her effervescence, comedic timing and strong singing voice (I’d love to see her in a musical!)

Director Shanea N. Taylor deserves major praise for her utilization of the small stage to effectively delineate separate scenes. The play’s pace was energetic despite its heavy themes and plot, and the blocking never became stagnant or contrived. Her work was well enhanced by Philip Milone’s set and Andrew Bonniwell’s lighting. One minor suggestion would be to perhaps add an afghan or throw blanket on the couch that was used for multiple sets, to distinguish it when being used in the family’s house. Directed by Shanea N. Taylor, the cast includes: Karla Brown, Toney Cobb, Jasmine Hammond, Jennifer Krisch, Seth Lyons, Carolyn Mohr, Thomas E. Nowlin, Todd Patterson, Belinda Todd and Delvin Young as “Wendal.”

The show runs through February 9th at RTP. Show times are Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8PM. Before It Hits Home will then move to Sycamore Rouge on February 22 and run until March 10, 2013. Show times at the Rouge are Friday and Saturday at 8PM; and Sunday at 4PM.

Before It Hits Home is one hit you won’t want to miss.

The Cast

  • Wendal: Delvin Young
  • Simone, Mrs. Peterson Jasmine Hammond
  • Douglass: Thomas E. Nowlin
  • Reba: Belinda Todd
  • Nurse: Carolyn Mohr
  • Maybelle: Karla Brown
  • Doctor: Jennifer Krisch
  • Bailey: Toney Cobb
  • Dwayne: Seth Lyons
  • Junior: Todd Patterson

The Crew

  • Director: Shanea N. Taylor
  • Managing Director (RTP): Philip Crosby
  • Artistic Director (RTP) : John Knapp
  • Stage Manager: Sharon Gregory
  • Production Artistic Director: kb Saine
  • Set Designer: Philip Milone
  • Lighting Design: Andrew Bonniwell
  • Assistant Lighting Designer: David White
  • Costume Design: Margarette Joyner

Disclaimer: Richmond Triangle Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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