While I Yet Live is playing at the Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street located at 229 West 42nd Street. It runs two hours thirty five minutes with one intermission. It is a limited engagement to October 31, 2014.
The show is directed by Sheryl Kaller. She was nominated for a Tony Award for “Next Fall” (2010).
Billy Porter is the playwright. He won a Tony Award for “Kinky Boots” (2013).
Lillias White won a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for “The Life” (1997). She was nominated for a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for “Fela” (2010) and “Dream Girls” (1981).
S. Epatha Merkerson was nominated for a Tony Award for “The Piano Lesson” (1990). She won an Emmy Award for “Lackawanna Blues” (2005). Ms. Merkerson is best known for her role as NYPD Lieutenant Aniya VanBuren in”Law & Order” (1993-2010). She was in 391 episodes.
Esosa is the costume designer. He was nominated for a Tony Award for “Porgy and Bess” (2012).
The setting is a Big House in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Tonya (Sheria Irving) addresses the audience while activity is happening in the house behind her. She makes wise crack about whipping children. After her talk, she goes in each room until she gets to the kitchen. She takes a can of soda and chips to the living room where her dad Vernon (Kevyn Morrow) is sitting watching t.v.
There are other characters in the other rooms but we can’t hear what they are saying.
Upstairs we meet Maxine (S. Epatha Merkinson) and her friend Delores (Elain Grahm). Maxine has an illness that she has to use a cane to walk. Delores is fighting some kind of cancer. Maxine son Calvin (Larry Powell) brings in a bunch of wigs for Delores to wear. There is a hint that Calvin is gay.
In the kitchen are two sisters Gertrude (Lillias White) and Eva (Sharon Washington) who are cooking. This is Gertrude’s house.
The story goes on room by room.
Tonya addresses the audience about how the family quotes from the Bible. She said she read it and it's violent. Tonya quotes passages from the Bible. In the mean time she takes off her dress and puts pants on. We join the rest of the cast in the dining room. There is something different in their attire. It’s seven years later and Thanksgiving.
After intermission another seven years have passed.
We learn secrets and what happened to the family during each group talks.
What secrets we learn, what happened to the family to make them who they are? You will have to see the show.
Billy Porter has written a very tender story about his mother and family. We learn more about the actor and now playwright. Thank You for sharing this story with us. This is a well done show.
What can I say, the cast was great.
Sheryl has brought out the best in Sheria Irving and S. Epatha Merkinson. Sheria reached deep in her soul to pull such a superb performance. S. Epatha Merikinson is strong, that she will not let her illness get her down, and as the years go by she gets worse and worse. You can see the changes. Ms. Merkinson is so convincing. She did such an excellent job. I don’t know how she did it.
How can I forget the wonderful set. It’s a house that has been sliced in half. Left is the kitchen, dining room, living room with a door leading to the outside. There are stairs in the living room, where there are three doors, one is a bedroom.
I hope this show make it to a Broadway theatre. Don’t miss seeing this show.
Can I make my Tony Award predication now?
Review by Rozanna Radakovich
Photos by Annazor.
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