Sunday, October 5, 2014

While I Yet Live *

I hope that writing this family memoir was therapeutic for Billy Porter. That would at least provide some compensation for the ordeal of sitting through it. There are more family secrets under the roof of this home in Pittsburgh than one play can possibly handle. The fact that the only son of this religious black family is gay is far from the worst of its troubles. If only heartfelt emotions and good intentions were enough to make a play, this might have succeeded. Alas, the exposition is very clumsy. There are moments when it is difficult to tell not only when a scene is taking place but which characters are alive and which are dead. It does provide a fine opportunity for S. Epatha Merkerson, as the mother, to emote. I was looking forward to seeing Lillias White, but her underwritten role does not offer much chance to shine. The other cast members — Elain Graham, Sheria Irving, Kevyn Morrow, Larry Powell and Sharon Washington — do their best with the material. The second act meanders to a resolution that smacks of the wisdom of Oprah. I will give Porter credit for not sugarcoating the shortcomings of the character representing him.  James Noone’s set is attractive and Esosa’s costumes are appropriate to their characters. I enjoyed the player piano. I’m not sure what director Sheryl Kaller could have done to improve things for this Primary Stages production at the Duke. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bob- I enjoyed the play, never got bored or squirmed. The family's humorous verbal jabs were fun. After about 23 years of watching S. Epatha Merkeson on Law and Order, I feel related to her and loved being her audience for this play.