There are people among us who need to be appreciated for the love, care and depth that they bring to our community. People who create a means for us to express ourselves. They create a venue for us to gather and look inward. Such a person is Carl Clay, the founder of Black Spectrum Theatre at 177th St. & Baisley Boulevard in Queens, located in Roy Wilkins Park. For 50 years this brother has been bringing quality theater to the Queens community and beyond. Recently Clay directed a play which not only speaks to the issue in our community with great depth, but that he also wrote and every now and then brings back with an updated look at the current state of our communities. The play is called “Black Love.”
The name of the play has so many meanings for me. “Black Love” is what Clay shows his community and in this powerful piece he spotlights many poignant examples of Black love—the love between a Black man and woman, the love between two Black women, the love between a Black man and his son, or the lack thereof. The characters in this play are all interrelated, which just brings forth the vast connection that we all have to each other, especially in our communities. Theater is supposed to take you on a journey and Clay definitely does with this piece complete with an elevator operator/narrator/Hakeem engagingly played by Fulton C. Hodges.
Through several moving scenes, the audience is introduced to various Black relationships. One between a father and son, Van and Smiley, shows a son who desperately wants to show his father affection, something that the father is not only uncomfortable with, but becomes furious over. Van feels his duty as a father is simply to go out and make the money to support his family financially, but there doesn’t need to be anything more. He is already distant from his older son and is on the path to being the same with his younger son. His wife tries to point out to him that his son should be able to show him love and he needs to spend time with him. When Smiley doesn’t get what he needs to grow up as a loved, emotionally supported young man his life ends up going down a very rough path.
Black love between a husband and wife is shown through Samantha and David at first. But then David decides to spice up the relationship with a threesome and brings in Toni. What happens in this scenario will surprise you.
In all communities we have the people who just didn’t make it financially and emotionally, the people who turned to drugs to solve their problems and got hooked. But what you find in this script is Clay gives this Black man a backstory and friends who still know him and try to help. Although he’s not comfortable taking their help, he finally admits that he must change his life when he comes across his younger sister who he hasn’t seen in years. It is beautiful how Clay brings everyone’s story full circle and even makes those who seemed hopeless, have a chance. The children in our communities can go through a lot based on the complexion of their skin and Clay addresses that as well through a student named Linda, a dark-skinned child who is teased because of her complexion. This character goes on a journey and finds self-love and pride and it is marvelous! Something that really touches the heart is a character named Mr. Chips, he is a wealthy man in a nursing home that investigates the characters of young Black men and women in colleges and calls the school to pay their tuition. And, of course, a play that looks at Black love in our communities would have to include the political side of us competing for offices and tearing each other down, while white communities come together and work together to get things done. Clay gives clear, amusing scenes that make you laugh, but also let you see that we have to come together in order to make our communities better as a whole! Amen to that!
The ensemble of this play did a phenomenal job. I love when our people perform on all thrusters and this cast was definitely on point. In addition to Hodges, the other fantastic actors included Gil Tucker, Douglas Wade, Ria Alexander, Kenya Wilson, Aaron Watkins, Ashley Versher, Jared Davidson, Brian Anthony Simmons, Tuquan Smith, Zori Job, Mel’Lahnee Blackwell, Robin Hemmings and Jade Mason.
Black Spectrum Theatre offers a mixed bill of fare throughout the year for the discerning palate. To find out what else is happening visit www.blackspectrum.net.