By: Walter Ruff
Kingdom, currently mounted at the Atlas Center For The Arts is without doubt the most interesting production I have seen this year. Now keep in mind I did not say the best but it is close and it is fantastic. Take a large cup of Richard III, throw in some BBQ chicken and red Kool-Aid, add a golden bowling ball and a Popeye mask, toss in some hallucinogenic drugs and some Houdini magic, then consult the stars and you will have a small taste of Kingdom. Part of the Fresh Flavas Program to bring new works by playwrights of color to the stage Kingdom is written by David Emerson Toney and directed by Jennifer Nelson.
The stage.. Cleveland-late sixties, three brothers, one afflicted with Cerebral Palsy struggle with the future while in a day to day tussle with the past. Eddie, Clarence and Ricky-Trey have more than just a bit of family baggage, in fact, their trunk is stuffed full. Eddie, the oldest, who also was responsible for rescuing his brothers from a foster home, wants to leave a legacy to a son or daughter he has yet to have. Clarence, the middle brother, is a newly ordained mail order minister and BBQ chef trying to forget the past. Ricky-Trey, the youngest, is a magician and a world class speller. He has been imprisoned indoors by Eddie since childhood because of a minor childhood mistake — He killed another child with a brick. Are you hooked yet? You should be.
The acting and directing in this show at the Atlas Performing Arts Center was stellar! All of the cast deliver fine performances – Keith N Johnson as Eddie displays great range and a cocky self assured stage presence that showed depth and finesse. James J Johnson as Ricky-Tey contributes an award worthy performance that is as touching as it is funny. Addison Switzer as Clarence and Mildred Langford as Lena add fine performances that tie the whole romp together and complete a very fine cast.
The sound and stage design were sublime from the pre-show mix of 60s TV themes and Motown classics to the excellent, colorfully graphic stage pieces and furniture. Lighting transitions were smooth and costumes were great, especially Ricky-Trey’s PJs.
Everything about this production shows attention to detail from the set design to the playbill. I was very impressed with how much time and effort went into even the small things in this production. Why am I so impressed? This company gets very little press — the question is why? That is a topic for another day though as I do not want to stray from the topic at hand which is how great Kingdom is and the fact that you should see it at your first opportunity!
Stage Manager – Jess W. Speaker, III, Lighting Design – Dan Covey, Scenic Design – Tracie Duncan, Costume Design – William Pucilowski, Properties Design – Keri Schultz, Sound Design – David Lamont Wilson, Fight Coreographer – Karen Abromaitis, Director – Jennifer L Nelson.
Buy Tickets here