Through October 15
TOLLEY’S PLACE African American Cultural Center/Paul Robeson Theatre
“Tolley’s Place” is a plea, a plea for help.
Shirley Sarmiento’s play is a plea for more help for Black women.
The show opens with two women in a cemetery where their closest friend has just been buried and they lament what happened.
Kim (Sandra Gilliam) and Alley (Robbin Josey) wind up in a place they don’t know anything about, a location called Tolley’s Place.
Spirit (Shawnell Tillery) tells the two this is a place for Black women to find themselves, and to create a better place for themselves in life.
It’s a goal which needs a better script, not a better need but a better script about why the four women in the show and John (Charles A. Everhart Sr.), the one guy who helps Mrs. Tolley (Debbi Davis) keep the place going despite its fiscal travails.
This isn’t a play where some great issues are fought out on the stage of the Paul Robeson Theatre.
Instead, the four women and John agree on the problems and why Tolley’s Place is a solution, at least on the local level, with the hope for many similar facilities everywhere.
It’s not a pleasant picture of Black men, although much of it seems similar to males generally.
Before the pandemic, several local theaters had nights for readings on play scripts written by members of the surprisingly large local hopeful playwright community.
“Tolley’s Place” is an example of a play which would have benefited from a workshop or two.
The base material is strong in a time when the issues of the play are front and center.
Still, putting Sarmiento’s play on stage is a step forward in the process.
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