“BROKE” thought-provoking, well-acted, and excellently directed

The Performers Academy Theatre Review
A Dual Critics Review by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom [email protected]

The Performers Academy at 3674 Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, Florida presented “Broke,” a new play, during August 5 – 7 2016. Julian Robertson, the author, is a recent graduate of the Post to Post Links II error: No link found for term slug "Douglas Anderson School of the Arts"; he will be attending The Julliard School of Drama BFA acting program in New York City in the fall. The Dual Critics are familiar with Mr. Robertson as an actor, having seen him at DASOTA in “Ragtime” and “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” This play was co-directed by the playwright and Jordan Gregson.

broke 027When we made reservations to see this play, we wondered what it was about. Since Robertson was recently a student, we thought it was likely a comedy that bordered on farce, involving struggling students with poor budgeting skills. And we expected a short one-act play, perhaps forty-five minutes long. Instead, the production was one of the more nitty-gritty plays we have seen in recent years, filled with developed characters facing complex issues. We found the play thought-provoking, well-acted, and excellently directed.

The two-act drama takes place in two locations; inside a low-rent apartment, and outside along urban streets in an unnamed city. (Advisory: Due to profanity and adult situations, the play is not appropriate for young audiences).

broke 023The play opens outside with David (Kamari Saxon), a drug dealer, discussing his business concerns with his henchman Red (Terrence Scott). David’s concerns are related to clients who owe him money and Red is the muscle man he sends out for collections. Red’s tactical approach to delinquent customers begins with reasoned discussion, followed by threats and physical force when needed; he is conflicted at times about continuing along this path.

The next scene is at the apartment of Scott (Gino Liardo) a young man in his twenties. His best friend is Markis (Paxton Sanchez), an addict who turns out to be the play’s central character. Scott and Markis have been friends since their school days; in fact they were recently sharing an apartment, an arrangement which ended two months ago, when Markis suddenly disappeared.

broke 018Now Markis is back, and asking Scott for help; he needs a place to stay and doesn’t have any money; his obliging friend says he can sleep on the couch. But Markis has problems that extend far beyond being homeless: he owes dealer David money – big bucks – and is a most wanted man, without an income, without a job, and without prospects.

broke 015Alexx (Sophia Rizzuto), a bright college student who was a past girlfriend of Markis, offers to pay off the debt if he will promise to leave town and start a new life elsewhere. After they part, he pursues Izzy, (Allison Svagdis) another former girlfriend; after a brief amorous interlude, he obtains a loan from her under the false pretense of needing it to buy a promised gift for a family member.

Things become more complicated when Alexx and Scott seem to fall for each other, much to the dismay of Markis. The play has a remarkably dramatic ending, but, in accordance with our reviewing policy, no spoilers here.

Some happenings evoke laughs at various points, but the humor is over-shadowed by the sociopathic Markis, who has recently begun seeking God’s help during daily prayers. Red shares his perceptions of the problems Markis is facing when he states “You’re out there looking for God but you ain’t found him ‘cause you’re evil.”

All the action takes place in an excellent black box theatre, designed by JaMario Stills, Director of Development at Phase Eight Theatre Company, in a building on the Performer’s Academy campus. The acoustics were impressive, and even though there was a room full of chatting patrons, you could carry on a normal conversation. A full-house audience was mesmerized by the action on the stage.

The production team included: Jordan Gregson & Julian Robertson (Co-Directors), Manasseh Lewis (Stage Manager) Todd Collins (Scenic Designer), Carter Delegal and Dante Gregson (Assistant Stage Managers), Desiree Stant (Lighting Designer) Will Summerville & Jalen Penson (Lighting & Sound Technicians).

Playwright Robertson has written two other original plays “Fleas” and “Derek and Lily Against the World” and also has a couple of others in the works. Phase Eight Theatre would be the perfect place for his future works and we hope to see them staged in the future, with many new patrons in the audience.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.