‘NOIR’ at DCAC explores tormented mentalities of five Black men

This excellent play raises awareness and provokes thought through captivating characters and emotional monologues.

Being a human is challenging. Being a man is hard. Being a Black man is tough. The stage play NOIR at DC Arts Center explores the tormented mentalities of five Black men. With National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month around the corner, this excellent play raises awareness and provokes thought.

Can men show vulnerability and still be “manly”? Does getting to the root of trauma through therapy heal people? Are “Niggas … just numbers”? Those are among the many questions and themes in this show. Playwright Mel Burwell adapted NOIR from For Black Boys Who Considered Homicide When the Streets Were Too Much by Keith Antar Mason.

Isaiah Woods as Alex and Dominique Fox as Dr. Goode in ‘Noir.’ Photo by Diarra Fields of Jshutters photography.

Over 15 chapters spread across two acts, there were several amazing performances and powerful monologues within the Arts Center’s black box stage. It was an acting clinic.

The play was framed by Dr. Deangelo Goode, played by the incomparable Dominique Fox. Wracked with hallucinations and a split personality, Dr. Goode appeared to be a counselor for troubled Black men. However, there was a twist to Dr. Goode’s role in the story.

Goode told his wife, played by the wonderful Indeah Woods, “Most days aren’t good days for me.” With his maniacal, Joker-like laugh, and a scary scene with a real knife to his wrist, Fox was phenomenal.

Isaiah Rozae Woods has an interesting story. He’s got a hip-hop music background. He suffered a real-life trauma. He was shot in the head and lost his eyesight. His character, Alex, was a systems design engineer who was blinded by police. Woods’ terrific monologue raised the theme of “Cursed, and colored Black.”

Appearing in his first professional stage play, Terrence Griffin played Tae, a drunkard. In his captivating monologue, he posed the question “If a nigga cry, is he soft?”

The fantastic Alexander Hammet played Desmond, a younger man. His story started off as a soap opera and veered into a sexual abuse theme. Hammet had a good interplay with Tiera (Miss Tee) Wright, who played his here-today-gone-tomorrow girlfriend Tati Badu.

Wright’s character was the most fully fleshed-out female character. She played Tati with doe-eyed innocence in some scenes and naughtiness in others.

TOP LEFT: Carl Ackers as Mel, Terrence Griffin as Tae, and Dominique Fox as Dr. Goode; TOP RIGHT: Tiera Wright and Alexander Hammett as Redbone and Desmond; ABOVE LEFT: Terrence Griffin as Tae; ABOVE RIGHT: Carl Ackers as Mel, in ‘Noir.’ Photos by Diarra Fields of Jshutters photography.

The character Mel had lost his wife and brother. On top of it all, he was left alone to care for his baby. He yelled, “I’m tired of going to funerals!” Mel was brought to life by Carl Stewart, a Howard University graduate.

Erin Laws was both endearing as Mel’s grandma and maddening as Desmond’s “Auntie.” Laws is an accomplished songwriter.

Burwell made impressive use of video flashbacks, projected on a large screen. The set was simple, consisting of five folding chairs, a sofa, and a bed.

Burwell has written such plays as Behind These Walls, Emmit, and What Kind of Man, acted in plays such as For Colored Girls and The Color Purple, and worked with Phylicia Rashad at the National Black Theater Festival.

“My hope is that you leave NOIR feeling inspired and empowered,” Burwell wrote. “The cast and I believe our job as artists is not only to entertain, but to provoke society to make the changes in the community and world we would like to see.”

I couldn’t agree more. This play is well worth seeing.

Running Time: Approximately two hours with a 10-minute intermission.

NOIR played April 5 to 7, 2024, presented by Mel Burwell at DC Arts Center, 2438 18th Street NW, Washington, DC. Purchase tickets to future Mel Burwell events online. Find future events at DC Arts Center here.

The playbill for NOIR is here

Written, directed, and produced by Mel Burwell

Dr. Good: Dominique Fox
Mel: Carl Stewart
Tati Badu: Tiera (Miss Tee) Wright
Tae: Terrence Griffin
Mrs. Goode: Indeah Woods
Grandma/Aunt Tee: Erin Laws
Alex: Isaiah Rozae Woods
Desmond: Alexander Hammett

Scenic Projection/Set Designer: Mel Burwell
Costume Designer: Mel Burwell
Sound Designer/Sound Effects: Mel Burwell

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William Powell
William Powell is a Ruby Griffith Award Winner for Assistant Direction, and has written and directed three short films for the 48 Hour Film Project, which earned several cast nominations. He has appeared in a one-man show for the U.S. Army "Small Steps Save Lives," and the stage plays "A Raisin in the Sun," “Barefoot in the Park,” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” He is host of the "Inside Acting!" radio show. William has appeared in principal roles in the independent films “Angels Within" and “The Red Effect." He has appeared in commercials for the likes of Car Max, GEICO and in TV shows like HBO’s “VEEP.”


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