Monday, April 6, 2015


Random acts of violence are, unfortunately, so common that they rate a mere few lines of newspaper print or acknowledgement on air.  We are almost immune to their impact, giving them a momentary blink of time in noting their tragedy.  But to the families and friends intimately involved, lives change forever and the impact never disappears.

Thanks to playwright Kimber Lee, we are privy to the devastation of one such random act in her new play "brownsville song (b-side for tray) being showcased at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven until Sunday, April 19 on the Claire Tow Stage in the C. Newton Schenck III Theatre.

The Brownsville section of Brooklyn is the setting, but it could be Anywhere, U. S. A., where we first meet Lena, the strong matriarch of this splintered African-American family.  Catrina Ganey's masterful performance as Lena introduces us to her grandson Tray and she, reluctantly, begins his tale.  Tray, captured in the ambitious and hopeful hands of Curtiss Cook, Jr., is packed with promise.  He works hard in school, holds a part-time job at Starbucks and lovingly cares for his younger sibling Devine, a sweet but easily frightened Kaatje Welsh.

In addition, he is training for a Golden Glove championship boxing bout and is struggling to write a college essay that will secure him a much needed scholarship.  While Lena and Devine are the center of his world, Tray also deals with his friend (Anthony Martinez-Briggs) and his step-mom Merrill (Sung Yun Cho) who has suddenly reappeared in their lives after abandoning them due to her alcoholism and addictions.

This reliant young man, Tray, is killed, senselessly and tragically.  His life is explored, weaving a tapestry that goes back and forth between present and past.  Highlights of the production, which is co-produced with the Philadelphia Stage Company, are Lena's initial impassioned speech about the loss of her "man" Tray, the delightful dance between Devine, the "tree," and Tray, and the powerful essay Tray pens about who he is.  Eric Ting directs this moving and emotional literary piece, soaked in sorrow but saturated with a sense of salvation.

For tickets ($5-40), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Discover how Tray Thompson becomes more than just a name in a story of his death, but a real person, a young man of  hope who keeps his own dreams
close to his heart and, ultimately, of yours.

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