The Billie Holiday Theatre recently presented the politically explosive play “Autumn.” This work, penned by Richard Wesley, introduced the audience to the inside world of politics—the dirt, the shady deals and the character of some politicians—through the story of Franklyn, the mayor of an unnamed city. He has been in politics for years and is very dirty.
Franklyn, played powerfully by Jerome Preston Bates, is self-centered, greedy and vicious if he needs to be. He doesn’t care about the people who voted him in. He says what’s on his mind, whether it is politically correct or not. As I watched this play, he reminded me of a certain presidential politician who is self-centered, arrogant, ignorant and willing to go after anyone who opposes him to destroy their lives. But I digress.
Franklyn’s advisor Zack knows of all the dirty deals he’s participated in, because Franklyn got Zack’s hands dirty, too. But Zack is not comfortable with the dirt that is on him. His health begins to fail and he realizes that being Franklyn’s “yes man” and partner in crime was wrong. He realizes that Franklyn is out of control and needs to be stopped, especially when he sets his eye on the governorship.
It was amazing to watch how Franklyn’s life, both personally and professionally, spiraled out of control. Zack was given a strong performance by theater veteran Count Stovall. Pauletta Pearson Washington demonstrated the strength and conviction of her character, Melissa, Franklyn’s wife, a woman who knew her husband’s dirty dealings and had enough of them and him. Dorian Crossmond Missick delivered a good performance of Ronald, Zack’s son, who has political ambitions of his own.
Although Bates was riveting to watch, as was Stovall, another character captured and held the audience’s attention every time she took the stage, and that was Tricia, played by Lekethia Dalcoe. Tricia was a young, single mother with four children, who is also supporting four other relatives, and who needed a job and a place to live. At first she is a protester in front of City Hall, but step by step, Wesley lets the audience get to know this character whose life is sad and trouble-filled. As a single-mother with so many mouths to feed, she can’t control her 15-year-old son and he starts working for the local drug dealer. Scene by scene you witness the demise of Tricia’s household. You hear the frustration and hopelessness of this young mother every moment she speaks. What happens to her children is a classic story that happens too often in poor communities and is something that Wesley points a caring spotlight on. Dalcoe is spectacular in her mesmerizing performance. You identify with her issues and you see the hardship she is going through. Other members of this talented cast included Terria Joseph and Brent Langdon.
“Autumn” is at the Kumble Theatre at LIU in Brooklyn. This production is definitely worth seeing. Wesley’s works are just so well written and truly share a world that many people need to see.