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THE SIDEWALK STAGEPLAY Paul Robeson Theatre/African American Cultural Center
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Mar 16, 2019, 13:20
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Through April 7
THE SIDEWALK STAGE PLAY Paul Robeson Theatre/African American Cultural Center

Think about the phrase “mean streets,” a Martin Scorsese movie, a Raymond Chandler phrase, a slang comment at a cocktail party.
It’s what Edreys Wajed and Paulette D. Harris are writing about, a generic block somewhere in some city, edging into gentrification, controlled by a drug dealer, used by single moms working several jobs to survive and walked twice a day by kids to and from high school.
There’s also the narrator of the tale (Wajed), the embodiment of the street, who tells the story of the block and its continuing nature.
There’s a White woman who doesn’t seem to understand the neighborhood she’s living in (Madeline E. Allard); and, a father and son team of White cops, dad (Daniel Greer) a burnout and son (Zack McCarty) trying to figure out his new job and the people who live there.
“The Sidewalk Stageplay” from Wajed and Harris is a look at the section of pavement where everyone meets, passes by or dies by violence.
Most want out or just to survive.
Dealer Rock (Anthony Clark) controls the street, Antonio Harris’ design on the Paul Robeson Theatre stage.
Rock takes in a lot of cash he’s constantly counting, while making sure his holster is comfortable and readily accessible when someone challenges him for that cash or his corner.
Occasionally, he tosses cash to the people on the block.
Harris, as director, knows the story she and Wajed want to tell and has the cast to tell that story.
Interestingly, almost no one in the cast is from the Robeson’s usual stage company.
Besides Clark, there’s Andy Noel’s Mike, a kid who sees high tech and basketball as his way out; Janisha Whitlock’s Ronisha as the high school kid who is worn to exhaustion taking care of her siblings, while Mom works the hours necessary to keep them going; Linda Barr’s Loretta as a woman who won’t take anything sharp from those who control things; Mike Hicks’ Richard as a divorced Dad who tries to make sure his kids survive and thrive, only to deal with a cop who disrespects him.
There’s more.
The second act of “Sidewalk” seems to work better than the first, probably because it builds on the characters and situations established in act one.
We never do find out about the missing Toussaint.
The script heavily stresses the violent role of the cops’ occupation while also stressing the violence within the community which surrounds the street.
As so often true in the Robeson, this is call-and-response theater, the audience commenting on the events on stage and the attitudes displayed.
It’s local and its relevant and it’s well done.
Wajed and Harris need to tinker with the script but that doesn’t mean waiting until version 2.0 to see the show.
The key change would be cutting the script because too often in the first act, the writers make and re-make their point.
See “The Sidewalk Stageplay” because it’s the world around us.

A.W.

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