I attended the performance of your play, Some Old Black Man, at 59E59 Theaters on Saturday, February 10. Co-star Roger Robinson was out sick, replaced by Phil McGlaston. I understand that Mr. Robinson has been with the production since the beginning and that it is your request that the show not be reviewed without him. Certainly I was disappointed not to see his turn as Donald, but it was a marvelous afternoon nonetheless. I wanted to take this opportunity to applaud your wonderful work in full view of my readers.
To playwright James Anthony Tyler: Congratulations on your script, the first to be fully staged by Berkshire Playwrights Lab. Your story cunningly explores relatable themes of aging and generational conflict using the distinct filter of race relations. Both characters are so beautifully drawn with just a few strokes of your proverbial pen. Father Donald may be cantankerous, but you have assured us that his concerns are clearly rooted in very real and hard experience. I too am an only child and live with an aging parent, so I found it easy to relate to so many of son Calvin’s frustrations. My Mom may not have a brightly colored afghan thrown over the back of our modern couch, but there are certainly parallels I could point to. Judging from the reaction of my fellow audience members, I was not alone. At so many turns, you blend stirring moments of vivid social and economic commentary with laughter and empathy.
To director Joe Cacaci and understudy Phil McGlaston: I admire how quickly you were able to get the piece moving again after Robinson took ill. It is not easy to emote while on book. McGlaston gave an exceptional performance for someone with only three solid days of rehearsal, navigating several of Donald’s tricky emotional turning points, not to mention delivering some terrific yogurt-oriented comedy.
To Co-Star Wendell Pierce: It was a joy to see someone whose television work I have long admired live on stage in such an intimate setting. There are aspects of Calvin’s dialogue that seem ready made for your expressive growl and trademark loving exasperation. Even when confronted with a co-star who couldn’t make much eye contact, you created a deep relationship. And when the set popped a few stitches, you managed to cover in character and earn yourself an extra smile from the audience.
To Roger Robinson: I wish you a speedy recovery. You have obviously laid some splendid groundwork here. I am sorry to have missed your interpretation.
I wish you all a wonderful run at 59E59 — and beyond.
Cathy Hammer, The Unforgettable Line