Signature Theatre Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the SouthBy Mari Davis • Sep 20th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Through October 9th
Reviewed September 18th, 2011
Signature Theater’s Sweet Tea is as real as it gets. Writer and actor E. Patrick Johnson captivates his audience while chronicling the stories of thirteen black gay men raised in the South. Every character has a story and every story smacks of truth. The show is arranged by topic including religion, sex, transgender, and coming out. While content may not be to universal approval, the presentation is superb.
Director Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj has pulled out all the creative stops for this special arrangement, limited engagement production. His creative team has crafted a veritable masterpiece for the stage. A porch setting in a small, blackbox theater takes the audience to a warm summer afternoon enjoying an iced tea and a comfortable chat with an old friend. Carefully selected props and costume pieces cue the audience to which of the thirteen characters Johnson portrays at any given moment. Lights capture and focus the viewer’s attention on the moment, like chasing a firefly on a summer night. Sound effects were minimal, but heightened the senses by adding depth and ambiance especially to transitions. Leaving the theater felt reminiscent to packing up after a joyful family reunion.
Johnson’s sincere and dynamic portrayals sweep his audience along like a raft on a river. Characters appear and reappear to comment on the subject at hand (indicated by a projection screen above the stage). Gerome sings and dances his way into the hearts and minds of his viewers as he preaches on the struggles of gay men in gospel churches. Chaz/Chastity sashays to life as a dragtastic diva, with sky-high aspirations and a desire to be transgender. D.C. discusses some of his sexual encounters. Countess Vivian serves as a host of sorts, providing grounded perspective on everything from relationships to death. Audience members of the LGBT community ate up every word!
Maharaj’s direction of Johnson’s one-man play invites audiences to look at life from a unique point of view. Johnson’s superb story-telling presents perspective without drawing moral conclusions for his audience. Obviously, it caters to a target audience, but the content is crafted so well that it is accessible to all viewers. Sweet Tea is a great show for its superior theatrical value, its social narrative, and its non-aggressive approach to a very volatile subject.
Disclaimer: Signature Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7170.
Mari Davis is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.