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Friday, Sept. 28, 2012

Hansberry-Sands’ Inconsistent ‘Ceremonies’

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 Lonne Elder III wrote Ceremonies in Dark Old Men more than 40 years ago, but its messages regarding the “rituals” people play out time and time again, regardless of the outcome, still resonate today. In this case, it’s a black family in Harlem, where the Parker men—a widowed father and his two sons—talk big but do nothing while the lone daughter financially supports them all.

These “rituals” continue to entrap the Parker family and reinforce racial stereotypes; sons Bobby and Theopolis keep looking for the latest con while father Russell talks big in his barbershop while doing nothing to break out of his financial dependence on his daughter. Even the daughter, Adele, is defined by her subordinate role in the male-dominated family, despite her hard work.

Fortunately for Hansberry-Sands Theatre Company, Elder’s writing is strong enough to hold the audience’s interest despite uneven production values and inconsistency in acting. Standouts include Tina Nixon as the tough-talking Adele, whose gruff exterior protects a caring heart; Kerric Stephens as the wise-talking Theopolis; and, in particular, Terrance “T Dot” Kingsby, who captivates with cool restraint as the smooth yet sinister neighborhood “businessman” Blue Haven. He is as fascinating as he is terrifying to watch.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, especially if the “rituals” remain the same.

Ceremonies in Dark Old Men
runs through Sept. 30 at Vogel Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. For more information, call 414-616-7529.

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