Posted by Bruce Miller
I made it out to African American Repertory Theatre’s world premiere production of Charcoal Street last night, the stirring new drama by AART artistic director Derome Scott Smith. I’m glad I did. And I’m off this morning to a 7:30 a.m. seminar with the Better Business Bureau, so I’ll write only briefly.
Charcoal Street is part contemporary parable, part dramatized sermon, part morality play—all centering on the crisis of homelessness in our society. The story focuses on two homeless brothers, teenagers who are abandoned by a drug addicted mother but manage to stay outside the system, preferring to fend for themselves on the street.
Through a talent for the visual arts, and remarkable character and concern for each other, they survive. With help from a caring art teacher and support from a committed pastor who runs a street ministry / homeless shelter, the two teenage brothers ultimately turn their lives around.
The play provides ample opportunity for Derome to quote from two of his strongest influences, the poetry of Langston Hughes and the lessons of the Bible. Several rising actors have moments to shine—most notably when the brothers are torn apart at the end of Act I and reunited at the end of Act II.
And a palpable demonstration of how the arts can unite us all brings down the curtain at the end of the play in a coup de theatre reminiscent of the final scene in Quilters.
I fought back the tears more than once.
Charcoal Street runs tonight (Thursday) and tomorrow night at Pine Camp. It's a good opportunity to experience firsthand the heart and soul of African American Repertory Theatre. I recommend it for your consideration.