reviewed by Paula Citron
Secrets of a Black Boy
Trey Anthony Productions
Written by Darren Anthony
Directed by Kimahli Powell
Starring Al St. Louis, Samson Brown, Shomari Downer, Eli Goree, Darren Anthony with music by DJ O-Nonymous
At the Music Hall until Oct. 3
Trey Anthony wrote the megahit ‘Da Kink in My Hair which revealed the inner lives of black women. Now she is producing her younger brother Darren’s play Secrets of a Black Boy which does the same for Afro-Canadian men. The performance I attended was chock full of mostly young black people who reacted vociferously to the revelations coming from the stage. Clearly, this play packs a wallop for its target audience.
The loose plot revolves around a game of dominoes. Five black men have broken into a recreation centre that is going to be torn down for redevelopment, mirrored after the current Regent Park situation. This dominoes game is an homage to a place that has meant so much to them over the years.
The characters are all representative of type. Al St. Louis is Sheldon, the earnest community worker and activist who dreads what this closure means to the transplanted community. Samson Brown is the teenage, street smart Biscuit who hates everything authority stands for. He is the foil for the adults. The secret of Eli Goree as Jakes is that he is gay, much to the consternation of the audience I might add, while Shomari Downer’s Sean represents the educated man and working Joe trying to get ahead. Playwright Anthony is Jerome, brought up in a fatherless house. DJ O-Nonymous is along to scratch out the original rap hip-hop score composed by Gavin Bradley.
Amid their rambling conversations, each man breaks out into personal monologues of revelation.
En route, they talk about their feelings concerning many taboo subjects like interracial dating, commitment phobia, gun violence, homophobia, misogyny and the drug culture. Stereotypes of black men are pointed out and myths exploded. The cast is invested and committed, and Kimahli Powell has directed with sympathy.
In truth, Secrets of a Black Boy in structure is not a strong play with its static situation of dialogue and monologue. That being said, it is an important play because it portrays the notoriously reticent black man in an open discussion. The atmosphere in the audience is palpable. One could feel the black women react with anger at the pejorative and flippant attitude that men have towards them, and, at the same time, one could also sense the men in the audience squirm as uncomfortable subjects are broached.
For this reason, I forgive Anthony any weaknesses in the play. He touches the audience and that is what theatre is meant to do.
Secrets of a Black Boy continues at the Music Hall until Oct. 3.