Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wiccans in the Hood

Play #81 - Wiccans in the Hood by Michelle T. Johnson

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Mid-America Theatre Conference in Kansas City. Part of this particular conference is a new play symposium. And part of this symposium is that each play gets a response from a real live playwright. This year, that playwright was Michelle T. Johnson. During the conference, I was lucky enough to meet her, and she was generous enough to send me one of her scripts. I never stop being surprised and honored by playwrights' willingness to share their work!

One night, in a cemetery an "urban" neighborhood, an unlikely group of people comes together to perform a Yoruba ritual, asking Oya to bring about swift change in their lives. The group of believers is made up of Johnathan, Kylie (who are a couple) and Violet, and they are led by a man named Gabriel. The action starts when they show up with their offerings and run into a woman named Diamond who actually lives in the neighborhood. She questions why these three white people (and their black or Latino guide - Gabriel) who clearly don't belong in this neighborhood are hanging out in the cemetery at night... with eggplants and other strange offerings. Right away, she and Johnathan rub each other the wrong way, as he has a lot of assumptions in place about the people who live in this particular neighborhood. But despite their differences, the little band of believers keeps coming back, and Diamond keeps meeting up with them as they perform their rituals. Whether it's to deal with Kylie's problems at work or Diamond's sick Aunt Tilly, or Johnathan's troubled past, the rituals keep the companions coming back. Over time, friendships develop, and secrets come out about everyone's past - especially Johnathan's and Gabriel's. And it turns out that there is a lot more that these people share than they might have suspected.

Aside from the great title (and let's be honest... this is a fabulous title), the play has a wonderful sense of heart. It deals with real issues of socioeconomic inequality, drugs, loss, and personal faith. The relationships progress believably, planting seeds for the very real tragedies that the characters end up encountering. And, on top of all of its lofty goals, it's pretty funny too. There is something really approachable and charming about this script - I hope it finds its way to more stages!

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