Playwright, director, and producer Anthony Green walks in and is expanding the footsteps of internationally known Tyler Perry and local playwright and producer Alan Sharpe. Green’s productions thus far have all been, first and foremost, celebrations of the communities whose stories they are presenting: LGBTQ+ folk and Black folk. GAY Love Jones, presented August 25 and 26 at THEARC Theater, was a joyous occasion for the Black queer community, including all of their parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, nephews, nieces and supporters and hangers-on. Just as has happened with his previous offering, When Boys Exhale, GAY Love Jones will travel a nascent Black, queer theater circuit, touring to Atlanta and other cities where there is enough of a Black gay presence to support the work.
The plot follows the romance between Darius (Monte J. Wolfe) and Love (Scean Aaron) and the things that get in the way of that romance, both from outside their relationship and from their own shortcomings in working for their relationship. Darius and Love run Sanctuary, a bar that serves as a community gathering place for Black queer folk. Syd (Muhyi Ali) and Monica (Rocheny Princien) are the bar’s questionably competent workers, who are soon joined by the callow, nerdy, and newly-out Teddy (Justin M.H. Cowling). Together they make for a drama- and scandal-filled workforce that barely keeps the bar running. Rounding out the cast are Ricardo Cooper as the pulchritudinous villain Justin (who threatens to bring down both Sanctuary and the naive Teddy) and Beverly “Miss Chocolate” White as the highly uncensored, very alcoholic, and almost always truth-telling Beverly.
Green has a penchant and talent for identifying and bringing to our attention skilled storytellers we might not otherwise discover. This cast is full of them. Each performer in this show is an independent performer and theater craftsperson with multiple impressive credits. The production team was filled with new talents as well.
Beverly stopped the show whenever she was on stage. She delivers one of the funniest lines in the show as she tries to get Darius to see his situation more clearly: “The last time you was at Sanctuary you overdosed and set it on fire. Maybe runnin’ a bar ain’t your ministry.”
Much ink is being spilled these days about how theater is dying and how it needs to be allowed to die. On the other hand, Green through his Cagedbirds Productions is demonstrating in the work he produces that he may have a commitment to something different.
In a 2017 speech titled “Theatre of Be Longing,” playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight) said: “Community theater means going into the community rather than busing the community to us. It means taking a play and placing it where it’s set — while not disturbing the community, allowing the community to come to it…. The greatest political minds are telling us how theater of belonging works: at grassroots — small community-led initiatives that ask the talent of the community to engage,” initiatives that ask community members “to come inside and look at how we can live. Then we don’t pretend to belong, we actually do.”
Looking at the audience and at the work on stage, the audience’s belonging seems to be integral to the work itself. If that’s the kind of theater that Green and his company are committed to, may they run on for a long time.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 25 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission.
GAY Love Jones
Written and directed by Anthony Green
Love: Scean Aaron
Syd: Muhyi Ali
Monica: Rocheny Princien
Darius: Monte J. Wolfe
Teddy: Justin M.H. Cowling
Beverly: Beverly “Miss Chocolate” White
Justin: Ricardo Cooper
Stage Manager: Hamza Elnaggar
Sound Engineer: Michael Merrit a.k.a. (“R.E.A.G.L.E”)
Assistant Director: Tamisha Ottley
Technical Director: Hillary Reskin
Wardrobe Consultant: Eugene Simms
Production Assistant: Angell Chiles
Hair/Makeup Artist: Yardé Noir
Anthony Green’s ‘GAY Love Jones’ to celebrate queer love, DC, and poetry (news story, August 18, 2023)