“No matter what I say, I’ll be crucified,” said a character in Director Sheena D. Horne’s Crucified: The Stage Play, presented on October 21 by SDH Entertainment at Atlas. Many hard-hitting topics are covered in the show, which Horne wrote and is based on her life: addiction, family squabbles, childhood trauma, and the loss of loved ones.
More character- than plot-driven, Crucified told the story of a young woman, Yoshi, and her relationship with her mother, her ex, her daughter, and the rest of her family. Ani Dae, who has studied at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, performed quite the character arc as troubled single mother Yoshi, the fictional version of Horne. Yoshi dealt with addiction, squabbling family members, and an abusive boyfriend in the show.
Luviee LeNore was spectacular as Momma. Lenore took command of the stage in all her scenes. Momma was world-weary and ready for her retirement: “I raised my sister and brother. I didn’t have no childhood.” She also loved her bacon — a point of contention with her daughter: “I deserve to do anything I want.” Her interactions with Dae showed the arc of both of their characters.
Bryant Richardson brought a certain goofiness to Mook, Yoshi’s adopted “cousin.” With his various knit caps and wordy T-shirts (e.g., ”Dear Police I Am a Father”), Richardson’s Mook was always ready with a quip. Mook’s scenes also highlighted the importance of family.
Shows like this typically have a clown, and Daynin Michael’s Mr. Roscoe more than filled that role. Michael also served as assistant director. Mr. Roscoe had romantic designs on Momma. With his oversized, Falstafian belly and suspenders, Michael’s appearance invoked laughter even before he spouted lines like “I like a nice old biddy that’s been through the city.”
Lee Sturdivant and Comelita Payton played husband and wife, Rowan and Tammarrow (Yoshi’s sister). Their marital argument scene was dynamite. Much of Tammarrow’s angst came from a dark secret in her past.
Yoshi’s ex, Tyler (and her daughter’s father), was played with a nerdy studiousness by Orlando Harper. Harper, who has appeared in the TV show Pose, had powerful scenes with Dae and Jarrell Pittman, who played Yoshi’s new (and dangerous) love interest, Akashi. Offstage, Pittman bills himself as Jarrell Tha Griot (“Gree-o”) and is the founder of the storytelling organization Tha Griosphere.
Delightfully over-the-top is how I would describe Tiffany Strother’s performance as Yoshi’s manic cousin, Kameli. Kameli would use 50 words when ten would do. I liked Kenny North’s steady performance as Momma’s brother Uncle Tito, who had adopted Mook.
Tatiana London Fox effectively played Yoshi’s daughter Amari with few words. Other cast members included Crystal Graves as Mo and Hayood Turnipseed Jr. as Momma’s son, the boom-voiced Stephan.
Pastor Rick A. Pringle had moving scenes as a minister who gave inspiring sermons. He put soul into his rendition of “Stand Up and Tell the Goodness of the Lord.” Music Director Mr. Gillespie did well for what few songs there were.
As built by Marcus Hill Jr. and designed by Sheena D. Horne and Crystal Graves, the set was handsome. The walls were burgundy and featured a house-left dining room area, a house-right kitchen — complete with a stainless steel refrigerator — and a cozy, oversized, center-stage couch. The only flaw was the un-taped seams between the wall sections.
Director Horne has crafted a show in which the actors perfectly match their cues — a sign of good casting and directing. Crucified is a play with serious themes, punctuated with lighter moments. It is a play in which Horne invites audiences to “use her pain to enlighten others.” Because there is so much story to mine in it, I recommend Crucified for serious theater lovers.
Running Time: Approximately three hours with a 15-minute intermission.
Crucified: The Stage Play played on October 21, 2023, presented by SDH Entertainment performing at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, Washington, DC. For tickets to future shows, find them online.
Crucified: The Stage Play
by Sheena D. Horne
Pastor: Rick Pringle
Yoshi: Ani Dae
Momma: Luviee LeNore
Amari: Tatiana London Fox
Kameli: Tiffany Strother
Mook: Bryant Richardson
Akashi: Jarrell Pittman
Tyler: Orlando Harper
Tammarrow: Comelita Payton
Rowan: Lee Sturdivant
Mr. Roscoe: Daynin Michael
Mo: Crystal Graves
Uncle Tito: Kenny North
Stephan: Haywood Turnipseed Jr.
ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE TEAM
Director: Sheena D. Horne
Assistant Director: Daynin Michael
Music Director: Mr. Gillespie
Stage Manager: Foday Silah
Production Assistant: Antawn Pixley
Lighting Design: Sheena D. Horne
Set Design: Sheena D. Horne and Crystal Graves
Set Builder: Marcus Hill Management
Costume Design: Sheena D. Horne
Properties Master/Set Dresser: Sheena D. Horne