Daniel Beaty’s brilliance, depth and perceptions with regards to the issues in the Black community are beyond belief. You will never see a production that illuminates the issues in the Black community more than you will when you experience a Beaty play.
Recently, his latest one-man show, “Mr. Joy,” came to an end. I’ve been a theater critic for 29 years and when the play concluded, I wiped the tears from my eyes, caught my breath and clapped as much as I could–the ending was so moving that I couldn’t speak. I wanted to shout “Bravo!” but I couldn’t get out any words.
In “Mr. Joy,” Beaty writes about a shoe repair business in the Harlem community and its owner, a Chinese man named Mr. Joy. The audience never meets Mr. Joy but gets to know a lot about him through thoughts shared by Clarissa, an ill, young Black girl he has befriended, Clarissa’s grandma Bessie, Mr. Joy’s son and some of the neighborhood people who live in a project in Harlem.
Beaty has an amazing talent for playwriting, where he introduces each character to you separately, allows you to learn the issues they each face and then shows a clear connection between all the characters. Beaty is one of the most gifted playwrights to come along in a long while. In “Mr. Joy,” he not only talks about the issues of violence that sadly overrun the Harlem community, he also talks about the prejudice that exists and the negative way that outside businesses are viewed by community residents.
Beaty also delves into family issues, as a proud father disowns his one child when he learns that his son wants to be a woman and is willing to have the surgery to become one. Beaty manages to create a production that successfully addresses a variety of issues. He looks at the ways this generation of young Black males act and explains what could be causing their actions. He doesn’t judge people in his production; whatever issue he is addressing, he shows it from both sides.
With “Mr. Joy,” as with his previous one-man shows, “Emergency” and “Through the Night,” Beaty captures the problems in the Black community and allows his characters to share passionate viewpoints on the issues and what could be involved in finding the solutions.
Beaty takes the audience through so many emotions with his poignant writing and his clearly defined characters. He captivates the audience from the opening scene and keeps you entertained and engaged until the final moment.
I think it is amazing and wonderful that Beaty has this phenomenal gift to see and write about the issues happening in the Black community. He has a bold honesty that makes you laugh yet also nod your head in agreement. Beaty is a skilled singer and poet, and he adds those elements to his plays. It’s especially through poetry that the audience gets to experience the “Wow” moments in his shows.
Beaty is the complete package–he writes and performs his plays and demonstrates a passion that can’t help but grip the audience. As you watch a Beaty play, you don’t want it to end. You want to continue to hear him talk about the issues in the Black community, with his clearly passionate and fair understanding of what the issues are. Beaty reminds me in some ways of August Wilson. He is documenting the issues in our community. He may not be taking it by decade, but he is definitely providing a realistic record of the issues that are happening in Harlem and other Black areas in these rough times.
Beaty is guided through the extraordinary direction of Sheryl Kaller. However, I must say, when I watch Beaty perform, I always know that I’m in for a treat and enlightenment because Beaty is only being Beaty and, simply said, Beaty means theatrical brilliance!
Though the play did close after a successful run at the Riverside Theatre, where it was presented by the Riverside Theatre and New Heritage Theatre Group, there is talk of it possibly being remounted at a different location. Let’s hope so.