[]

The cast of ‘Trouble in Mind’ at Main Street Theatre

Photo: Pim Lim/Forest PhotographyThe cast of ‘Trouble in Mind’ at Main Street Theatre”,”html2″:”The cast of ‘Trouble in Mind’ at Main Street Theatre”,”html3″:”

The cast of ‘Trouble in Mind’ at Main Street Theatren”,”plain”:”The cast of ‘Trouble in Mind’ at Main Street Theatre”},”publicationDate”:”2022-09-20 13:44:57″,”publicationDateTimestamp”:1663681497,”lastModifiedDate”:”2022-09-20 13:45:00″,”lastModifiedDateTimestamp”:1663681500,”expirationDate”:””,”resaleLink”:””,”isCover”:true,”orientation”:”landscape”,”sizes”:{“16x9_3x”:{“url”:”https://s.hdnux.com/photos/01/27/42/74/22949684/3/mobile_landscape.jpg”,”width”:600,”height”:338},”3x2_3x”:{“url”:”https://s.hdnux.com/photos/01/27/42/74/22949684/3/gallery_large.jpg”,”width”:900,”height”:600},”original”:{“url”:”https://s.hdnux.com/photos/01/27/42/74/22949684/3/rawImage.jpg”,”width”:2048,”height”:1365}}}},{“type”:”image”,”manual”:false,”params”:{“mtime”:1663679465,”guid”:”photo_22949625″,”id”:22949625,”layout”:”slide”,”rank”:2,”title”:””,”byline”:”RicOrnel Productions”,”workflowState”:”published”,”isPublished”:1,”caption”:{“html1″:”

Manning Mpinduzi Mott, Ansonia E. Jones and Tene A. Carter in ‘Trouble in Mind’ at Main Street Theater.”,”html2″:”Manning Mpinduzi Mott, Ansonia E. Jones and Tene A. Carter in ‘Trouble in Mind’ at Main Street Theater.”,”html3″:”

Manning Mpinduzi Mott, Ansonia E. Jones and Tene A. Carter in ‘Trouble in Mind’ at Main Street Theater.n”,”plain”:”Manning Mpinduzi Mott, Ansonia E. Jones and Tene A. Carter in ‘Trouble in Mind’ at Main Street Theater.”},”publicationDate”:”2022-09-20 13:11:03″,”publicationDateTimestamp”:1663679463,”lastModifiedDate”:”2022-09-20 13:11:05″,”lastModifiedDateTimestamp”:1663679465,”expirationDate”:””,”resaleLink”:””,”isCover”:false,”orientation”:”landscape”,”sizes”:{“16x9_3x”:{“url”:”https://s.hdnux.com/photos/01/27/42/73/22949625/3/mobile_landscape.jpg”,”width”:600,”height”:338},”3x2_3x”:{“url”:”https://s.hdnux.com/photos/01/27/42/73/22949625/3/gallery_large.jpg”,”width”:900,”height”:600},”original”:{“url”:”https://s.hdnux.com/photos/01/27/42/73/22949625/3/rawImage.jpg”,”width”:2048,”height”:1365}}}}]}];var sfcSlideshowJson = (sfcSlideshowJsonWrapper.length > 0) ? sfcSlideshowJsonWrapper[0] : [];]]>

With an engrossing history, a superlative cast, and a message that cannot be ignored, Main Street Theater’s “Trouble in Mind” is not simply a period piece from the 1950s, but a riveting commentary on race, art, and power that will leave you thinking long after the show is over.

Written by African American playwright Alice Childress, “Trouble in Mind” takes place in a Broadway theater in New York City in 1957. It is an original and striking “play within a play” (or at least a play rehearsal within a play) that reveals the frustrations of artists (both Black and white) working in a culture that practices condescension and discrimination as a norm, even under the guide of being progressive.

Childress’s play opened Off-Broadway in 1955, but at the time, one of the white, male producers insisted that she change the ending. Childress was also directing the show, and had major reservations about the alteration. The forced ending was the main thing that critics did not like. Childress tried rewriting the play, but eventually it was turning into something so far removed from her original intent that she abandoned the enterprise. So it was only in 2021 that “Trouble in Mind” had its Broadway debut at the Roundabout Theater. 

The first act sets the stage for understanding the landscape of professional acting in New York in the 50s. Actors of color walk a constant tightrope as they try to inhabit characters in an authentic way without devolving into predictable and offensive stereotypes. Having this play set during rehearsals is perfect since this play, and all of the social hot buttons issues it pushes, are works in progress that have not been ironed out. The actors confront how one should possess a character without being false about it (in spite of pressures to do otherwise).

The second act really heats up, and the performance of Tené A. Carter as Wiletta is wrenching as she reveals how the stereotypes that director Al Manners (a memorable Rhett Martinez, whose swagger and controlling nature are hard to forget) wants to employ are the exact dose of dishonesty that insures a big drink of bad art. Ansonia E. Jones is also compelling as distrustful Millie, who can move from neutral to disgusted in a nanosecond.

Rutherford Cravens as Bill O’Wray is outstanding playing an over-the-top embodiment of a racist when he is really is a racist. He doesn’t want to change the world. He doesn’t even want to have lunch with his colleagues—just play a part. Manning Mpinduzi-Mott as Sheldon Forrester is arresting as someone accused of being an Uncle Tom, but he sees “justifying” certain decisions as “common sense” for survival. A whole constellation of attitudes unfold as each character explains their reactions to the racism around them in life and art.

Even though the subject matter is serious, there is comic relief that cuts some of the tension. But it is a temporary relief as the second act intensifies with growing conflict not only between Manners, and the rest of the cast and crew. Ginger Mouton is convincing with her cringe-worthy moments as the well-intentioned Yale educated white girl who casually drops racist comments without realizing it.

‘Trouble in Mind’

When: Sept. 17- Oct. 16
Where: Main Street Theater 2540 Times Boulevard, Houston, TX 77005
Details: $35.00-$59.00; 713.524-6706; mainstreettheater.com

This outstanding ensemble cast reveals the inner and outer turmoil that these artists faced when trying to keep employment in a profession that encourages a certain inauthenticity. When Wiletta powerfully questions the script and her director’s demands, she is also questioning the “script” African Americans are pressured to follow just to be able to participate in American and artistic life.  

This regional premiere packs in a lot: upward mobility, white guilt, white non-guilt, code switching, and inconvenient and awkward truths, as in “White people hate to see unhappy Negroes.” You can see how Childress had to struggle with exposing racism in the theatrical world when her theatrical world insisted on presenting characters in a way that dodges the issue. But her play proves her point, and the performances of the cast are so good that you will never think about “losing yourself in a role”—for better or worse—in the same way ever again.

Doni Wilson is a Houston-based writer.

 



Source

Advertisements