Director: Count Stovall
It is always a treat to see actors over a certain age in a stage production; working in an industry that can have a reputation for limiting options for actors when they reach a certain age. It is extra sweet when the roles for said actors are well-written and multifaceted. Imminently Yours, which is currently running at the St. Mark’s Theater and produced by the resuscitated Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) is the latter. This production is one of three in a series of women’s plays funded in part through a grant by “Made in NY” Women’s Film, TV & Theatre Fund, a program of The City of New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (“MOME”), which provides finishing grants to encourage and support the creation of film, television, digital, and live theater content that reflect the voices and perspectives of women.
NEC’s awards include a Pulitzer Prize (1982, A Soldier’s Play), two Tony Awards and 11 Obies. Its legacy reads like aWho’s Who of America’s Black theater artists, including Denzel Washington, Phylicia Rashad and Alfre Woodard. In 2009, Signature Theatre presented a season of readings of various plays from the NEC canon, with Douglas Turner Ward as curator and Ruben Santiago-Hudson as associated artist.
Veteran actors Arthur French (Trip to Bountiful) and Dorothi Fox (Orange is the New Black) lead the mostly mature cast of actors in this modern-esque dramedy. Both French and Fox have over four decades each of stage, film, and television experience. While it is never clear when the play takes place, it has the feel of a traditional modern piece from the 1950’s. However, due to the smartphones used by several characters in the play, it can be assumed that it is set at the very least in the 2000’s.
Imminently Yours, written by Karimah, deals with the socio-philosophical issues of expropriation of land and history by eminent domain. Most of the time, the play serves the characters well, albeit a bit heavy-handed on the cursewords for Lille Mae (played by Fox). The other characters are also pretty well-written; although the two youngest characters are not given the same depth as the older ones by playwright Karimah. The only white character in the play, James, ably played by Ryan Desaulniers is the “outside” voice, representing the Establishment. He somehow starts dating the other young character in the first two minutes of meeting her. All in all, the actors show up throughout, with occasional moments of lull, which causes the momentum to lag. Though the subject matter is timely, especially with the United States Congress, again, entertaining talk of reparations for African Americans because of slavery, Jim Crow, and so forth. However, some extra dramaturgy will trim the fat from the verbiage and lighten the occasionally unnecessary load so the plot can move along.
The director, Count Stovall, boasts a career that spans over 30 years; he has received three AUDELCO Awards and a special Recognition Award for Outstanding Achievement from The National Black Theatre Festival. As an actor, his Broadway credits include A Streetcar Named Desire, Driving Miss Daisy, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Innocent Black (with Melba Moore) and A Philadelphia Story with Blythe Danner. His experience shines through with this cast. Although there were lags, one probably cannot blame Stovall-there are times when the actors actually look a little weary. Nontheless, there are places where the blocking is stagnant, where actors are all seated and just blabbering on and on for some time. Fortunately, this is balanced in terms of energy levels in different scenes.
All in all, Imminently Yours is a cute, important play because of the timely subject matter, and the performances are solid.
Runs until 30 June 2019 | Photo Credit: Quinn Calcote