Special to the AmNews

Seeing the title of Joel Drake Johnson’s play, “Rasheeda Speaking,” you are eager to hear what this Black woman has to say. But, according to Cynthia Nixon, who makes her directing debut with the play, Rasheeda is not a character per se.

“She’s really an idea that Jaclyn (Tonya Pinkins) crystallizes for us,” Nixon said during a recent interview with the AmNews. “Rasheeda is a kind of recognizable Black woman who you might run into a hospital, or cleaning the offices. It’s not that she isn’t seen by white people, it’s more of what she has to say about them.”

Pinkins’ explained, “Rasheeda is a secret code word for what white men call a Black woman they have to deal with and don’t want to deal with.” She believes the play will resonate in a special way for a Black audience. “They will say, ‘Uh-huh. I know the truth of that,’” she said.

What the play boils down to is that Jaclyn’s employer, Dr. Williams (Darren Goldstein), is seeking ways to remove her from the job in his office and enlists Ileen (Dianne Wiest) to help him find reasons to get rid of her.

“Realizing she can’t win,” Pinkins said of Jaclyn, “she’s determined to get in a few good licks before she goes down.”

But didn’t Dr. Williams hire her to begin with? “Yes,” Pinkins answered, “but he realizes he made a mistake.”

The one-act, four-scene play evolves into a psychological tug of war between the three characters as Jaclyn fights to retain her friendship with Ileen, while the doctor connives to win her to his side.

Nixon, who is perhaps best known for her role on HBO’s “Sex in the City” series, said the play came to her via the New Group and was written by Johnson, who is white and based in Chicago. She said Johnson created the play from an actual incident in which he was treated meanly by a Black nurse. When Johnson reported the encounter to the doctor, the doctor said he had been having a lot of trouble with the nurse. Johnson was working a play, but rather than write it from his point of view, he flipped the script and wrote it instead from the Black woman’s point of view.

When asked if she feels Johnson got inside the Black woman’s head, Pinkins said, “I don’t think anyone can get inside the head of someone from another culture, but they can try. It’s left to the actor to complete that task. We have to go inside and reveal all the things the writer can’t know.”

The final arbiter of whether Johnson succeeds and if the actors can effectively reveal his earnest intentions is the audience.

Cast along with Pinkins, who won several awards from her performance in “Jelly’s Last Jam,” Wiest and Goldstein is Patricia Conolly as Rose.

The New York premiere of the play marks the second production in the New Group’s 20th anniversary season. Previews begin Jan. 27 and the official opening is Wednesday, Feb. 11 at the Pershing Square Signature Center, the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre, 480 42nd St.

For additional information go to www.thenewgroup.org and for tickets call 212-279-4200