Alric Davis has penned a really remarkable play, and I’m so honored to have gotten a chance to witness this work at the Capital Fringe Festival.
We open with Chamuel (Austin Farrow) and his father Ralph (Jeremy Keith Hunter) seated in a pick-up truck with the actor Mericus Adams seated slightly away, narrating some of their actions while maintaining a determined focus on them both. It’s revealed that Ralph has just picked up Chamuel from jail, where he had been detained on a breaking and entering charge.
“Less is more” rings true time and time again throughout Different, Damaged, Damned. Director Nate Shelton made the smart choice within the tiny A-9 space at the MLK Library – absolute minimalism. The set consists of three chairs. There are no props; everything needed is mimed. All three actors begin and end on stage together. It’s clear that Shelton trusts his actors to carry the entire weight of the show, and that trust is clearly well placed. With a little clever use of the space itself, we see the show extend beyond the confines of its tiny cage.
Different, Damaged, Damned
Written by Alric Davis
Details and tickets
Austin Farrow imbues Chamuel with a nervous stillness and reticence; it becomes so very clear from his behavior early on that there is much more to the story than what is presented, made even more poignant by Ralph’s garrulousness. Farrow possessed very little in terms of written dialogue in comparison to Hunter’s more chatty Ralph, but he still managed to keep us with him every step of the way.
Mericus Adams carries himself, in physical, vocal, and spiritual presence, with a dignity and solemn poise. His Coach Ury, when he finally arrives in the story proper, manages to run a quick gamut of emotional states without a single one feeling forced, rushed, or faked.
Hunter holds the lion share of the show as Ralph, with speech after speech at Salieri level verbosity. Never once does Hunter come across as trite or uninteresting. With a light touch, he manages to fill up the space with his presence, and each word out of his mouth is heartfelt and sincere.
All three actors transcend the confines of the tiny A-9 space under Shelton’s smart direction, and the team brings playwright Davis’ words to flourishing and vibrant fruition. The fierce collision of direction, performance, and excellently penned words ensnares us in a story of the gentle lies we tell loved ones, the secrets we hold deep within our beings, and the anger that permeates the very air around us when we cannot be fully true to ourselves.
Different, Damaged, Damned becomes extra important in its portrayal of Black characters in our cultural lexicon. This brilliant play shows us the people behind the stereotypes we find in the media and in our own deeply embedded perceptions. All three characters, to varying degrees, show us an amazing blend of both positive and toxic masculinity, as well as their contributions to homophobia and down-low homosexuality that exist within many men. We get to see a multitude of facets, both presented and hidden within these characters in a way that I think is important for everyone to see. Very few representations of Black characters in our media give us such a poignant lens with which to examine similarities and differences, not for the sake of compare and contrast, but rather for the sake of finding that understanding between us.
I walked into Different, Damaged, Damned knowing absolutely nothing about the play, and left with a newfound respect for the entire team of this show. Despite being crammed into a very, very small,space, the gigantic heart of the play expanded outwards, causing all of our hearts to beat in sync for one beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Different, Damaged, Damned . by Alric Davis . Director: Nate Shelton . Cast: Mericus Adams, Austin Farrow, Jeremy Keith Hunter . Stage Manager: Fallon Williams . Produced by Orange Moon Players . Reviewed by Jon Jon Johnson.