NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–There are several important events in American history that, after a brief period of time don’t lose their significance, but head to near omission from the mainstream.
Those events include the New York Civil War riots that forced African-Americans to take refuge on barges in the Hudson River, and the Klan Notre Dame riot, where an army of invading Klansman tried to take over that university but were driven away by the Irish-American student body.
There was also the lynching of Italian immigrants in Louisiana for allowing African-Americans to patronize their grocery stores.
Unlike those Italian immigrants, whose families, because of a dogged effort by the Italian government, received compensation from the United States government, the survivors of Greenwood, Oklahoma, the wealthiest African-American community in 1920’s America got nothing.
That brings us to Nikkole Salter’s “Repairing a Nation.”
Fast forward eighty years to suburban affluence and the Davis living room, where noted actor Stephanie Berry takes on the role of Lois, an aimless everywoman struggling with her identity.
She also is that same relative who talks too much at the Thanksgiving table or leaves dishes in the sink. But she’s also a realist who is unafraid of the truth.
And those around her know that, if they render her irrelevant, truth need not be faced.
Berry’s robust performance and stagecraft were confirmed with a simple head nod during a family photo. This spoke volumes about the character and her environment.
A humble action, it was still one of the best nuances this reviewer has seen by an actor.
Phil McGlaston’s strong stage presence helped him deliver an ideal Charles Davis, Lois’s hard working cousin and legacy owner of the family business.
This annoyed but pleasant patriarch dislikes Lois and fears her pursuit of reparation will reveal certain facts he would prefer to remain uncovered.
Chantal Jean Pierre gave a wonderfully understated performance as the charming and patient Anna, the voice of reason in the Davis household who gets caught in the center of this brewing family crisis of secrets and inequity.
New Jersey’s own Landon G. Woodson played Lois’s son Seth and the heir apparent to the Davis family birthright. Woodson’s interpretation of the conflicted and upwardly mobile law student was spot on.
Angel Moore, played Debbie, Seth’s former lover and a permanent Davis house guest.
Unlike the Davis’s, outsider Debbie sees Lois’ value as a person and is on her side in her pursuit for Greenwood reparation and her search for unrequited family parity. This reviewer enjoyed Moore’s performance very much. Nikkole Salter’s compelling storyline, flowing dialogue, historical knowledge and well-drawn characters reminded the audience that both the parlor drama and the family drama are still relevant to the American Stage.
“Repairing a Nation” does have a limited run and is closing March 8.
If one wants to get a seat one should do so with dispatch. Ticket and performance information is available at www.crossroadstheatrecompany.org.