'Broke-ology': Trying to fix what can't be fixed

Categories: Theater

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Photo by Michal Daniel
Sonja Parks and James Craven.
It's a cliché, but life never ends up the way you think it, or want it, to be. Dreams get interrupted by jobs, relationships fail for the silliest of reasons, and tragedy can strike at any moment. Throughout Nathan Louis Jackson's Broke-ology, we never learn much about the details that tore the King family apart, but we get to see the wreckage

It is material that would be easy to overplay, but a talented quartet of performers and director James A. Williams keep the volume in check, finding as much emotional punch in silent moments around the dinner table as in full-bodied histrionics.

Following an all-too-brief moment of marital bliss between husband and wife William and Sonia, time jumps forward twenty-some odd years. Sonia is gone. William is obviously ill. And the family's two sons, Ennis and Malcolm, are paralyzed by impending decisions and changes.

The title, a jokey suggestion by Ennis about money matters, really is about more than money. The trio of survivors are each broken in their own ways, and need to figure out how to fix themselves and the family. The conflicts are fairly clear from early on; father William is in ailing health, taking expensive drugs that don't do much more than make him uncomfortable.

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Photo by Michal Daniel
Mikell Sapp and Darius Dotch
​Ennis has stayed in his hometown of Kansas City, is about to become a father, and is working his tail off to stay afloat. Malcolm is a fresh college graduate with dreams for his own future, but who runs into a choice at home: abandon those dreams to stay with his father and family; or abandon his family to follow his dreams.

Sonia and William only have a few scenes together, but James Craven and Sonja Parks made the best of these--and really, I wouldn't expect less from the pair. Far more of a revelation is the two young actors who play the brothers, Darius Dotch (as Malcolm) and Mikell Sapp making his professional debut as Ennis. Again, there is strong chemistry between the two, and with Craven, whose character can still lord over his sons even in his decrepit state.

The pain of watching parent decay from a proud state to someone who can no longer take care of themselves is one that reaches deep into the gut. Jackson doesn't shy away from this theme, but he is willing to look deeper--and that's a journey that the actors, and eventually the audience, are willing to make.

Broke-ology runs through April 10 at the Pillsbury House Theatre.

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