Ayodele Nzinga’s drama, “Mama at Twilight: Death by Love,” is a haunting look at a family crippled by circumstances. How does a man prepare for adult responsibilities when his father is nowhere around?
When a young Marie-Rose meets Mario Jefferson at the age of 15, while doing community service at her father’s church, she knows he is the man she wants to spend her life with.
She says: “He was wild. But I knew he had a soft side. It just didn’t have an audience. He was smart but he went to pains not to show it. Bad was like a part he played, but I knew the real him.”
Three grown children later, Mama still loves the man she fell in love with and has no regrets over its high cost or the raised eyebrows and whispers that sought to sanction her. All she needs is his love, and her Pappi loves his Mama too, even as he questions his good fortune.
How could he deserve such a woman? He asks. It is a question put to the test when Pappi has to find his legs and walk like a man.
In this moment, Pappi faces himself for the first time with faith.
An August Wilson protégée, Dr. Nzinga tells a story reflects a reality which is all too true. Heterosexual Black women in North America are the latest in an HIV pandemic, especially among women Mama’s age and older—women whose children are grown.
Though we are not clear how Mama gets infected, she is victimized a second time due to inadequate and inefficient health care service delivery.
Both parents work, and the three children are smart, articulate and well on their way to success in their chosen fields.
However, there is an elephant in the room..How is it possible to hold anger and love in the same vessel? “Mama at Twilight” answers this question.
It is Mama’s grace, elegantly danced by Cat Brooks, which sets the tone. Her example gives Lil Mama permission to hold anger and love in the same vessel.
Her mother loves Pappi (actor Pierre Scott) through distress and heartache, happiness and joy. What Pappi gives his wife is brutal honesty. The kind of love she has for Pappi is “agape” love, a selfless love that expects nothing in return.
Infidelity, hustling, imprisonment, abandonment, infectious disease, and death are topics for mature audiences, yet Nzinga lets characters walk a tier balanced by love. This Mama holds her family close and they in turn hold each other.
The emotional terrain is treacherous and there is no net.
The play – at Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway in Oakland – closes Sunday, Jan. 29. Shows are Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. Matinees are Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
For tickets and information: lowerbottomplayaz.com and (510) 332-1319.