In “Triple Threat,” the autobiographical one-man show written and performed by James T. Lane, Lane wears his heart, soul and raw emotions on his sleeve. This is an actor who has been through a great deal and he shares his journey with the audience. A journey that included growing up in poverty in Philadelphia, growing up without a father in his life, growing up a brown-skinned Black boy who was put into situations that he had to cope with and get through alone. Lane is an accomplished singer, dancer, and actor to say the least, but what does it mean to have those talents if a racist business only sees you as a stereotype? What does your journey look like if you appear to have fame but also insecurity, and find yourself abusing drugs to cope?
Lane takes the audience on a trip that is not soft-soaped, but has true grit. He takes us into a world of abuse, drug abuse, losing oneself, abusing family and friends to get money for your next high, and continuing on a destructive path, despite having what some people may consider fame and success.
Don’t get me wrong: Lane has proven his abilities as a performer and has an impressive list of shows from Broadway including, “A Chorus Line,” “Chicago,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” and “King Kong: The Musical.” He has been on tour with “Fame,” “Ain’t Too Proud,” “Cinderella,” and “Jersey Boys.” But success is not always what it appears to be, because there is a life off of the stage. This incredibly sensitive actor lets the audience see the persecution he endured as a gay, Black man and his hatred towards the way people judge him due to his skin color. It is quite interesting to hear Lane do the “To be or not to be” monologue from “Hamlet” at an audition for a white producer. He delivers the words with depth, drama, passion, and is absolutely stunning; but the producer’s reaction? He wants him to do it as if Hamlet was a Black man from Philly. What?
Lane experienced many moments in his life where he was put into environments that made him the token, like going to all-white schools. He shared the racist beliefs that people had about him. As a gay man, he found that his own community kept wanting to know his sexual preference. The things he shares from his past—-his very important relationship with his mother, to whom he is the oldest child—help us to see the height he climbed and the depth of despair he and his family descended to.
When he is singing, dancing and acting, Lane has that IT factor that screams “he is absolutely fabulous”! When he shows us the wild acting-out resulting from his drug-seeking behavior, we see a man who is a slave to drugs and who feels a sense of hopelessness. The audience gets a complete, unedited version of a gay, Black man who has great acting chops and though he has been through a lot in his life, often feeling powerless, he manages to hit bottom, bring his life back and let everyone know, he’s not about excuses. He is about realizing the pain and judgment the world has about him and deciding that what the world thinks is not important. His power is generated NOW by telling his story and letting so many people who have gone through it and are going through the stereotypical beliefs people have about Black performers, know that they don’t need to be acknowledged by the outside world, it is what they think of themselves that matters!
Lane’s story is harsh, but also inspiring. “Triple Threat” is an extraordinary theatrical event. Lane has you grooving in your seat as he performs vibrant choreography by Kenny Ingram, who also directs this poignant work. His story is captivatingly brought together by scenic designer Teresa L. Williams, lighting designer Emmanuel Delgado, sound designer DJ Potts and video designer Tij D’Oyen.
This must-see production is playing at Theatre Row at 410 W. 42nd Street. It runs 70 minutes, but it is packed with emotions that will get you invested in his journey and his metamorphosis into an evolved and self-reliant individual. Well done James! For more info, visit www.bfany.org.