By Jay Ray / @jayrayisthename
Being an American Black Man is one of the great paradoxes of our nation. Both loathed and celebrated, we have yet to overcome and be viewed fully human. There’s a twist and tug to being us. It’s not just enough to exist - the world has been taught to fear us, desire us and want to be like us, but not BE us.
Paris Crayton III is very open with the fact that this is his favorite play that he’s written. Commendable, because he has written so many loved plays that audiences in his hometown of St. Louis and in Atlanta have been happy to watch. He has a knack for mystery, where the audience doesn’t know where things will land in the end, and you are on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next.
Brothers of Affliction, currently playing at the West End Performing Arts Center in Atlanta through November 22nd, takes us inside the world of three brothers. Each of them has their own affliction to deal with in the physical world (the oldest brother Chris’ alcoholism, the middle brother Shane’s cocaine abuse and the youngest brother Tyriq’s weed and fire addiction), but none of these afflictions affects them more than the secrets and dysfunction from their childhood that manifest in their everyday adult lives. Brothers takes the audience on a journey into what can happen when a child doesn’t experience love from adults at an early age, and how it can destroy any potential of a successful adulthood.
Expertly directed by Robert John Connor, this play isn’t the kind that goes down smoothly. Yes, Crayton does a great job of adding comic relief to a heartbreaking story, but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch the turmoil unfold. During intermission, I got the chance to chat with some of the other audience members, and we were all excited to see where this was going to go next. It was the kind of wanting where you were both intrigued, but scared. You almost felt like you needed to brace yourself for what would happen.
Paris has done something important for black men. He’s shown the world who we are uncompromisingly. He also showed us that love manifests very different depending on how you experience it in childhood. Being a black boy in America already comes with burdens to carry, and that with every stereotype and every prejudgement, what seems like too much can get much worse.
Black men have never been allowed to be and experience full love. Brothers of Affliction shows us that even through all of our own faults, and the challenges that we’re born into, that we are beautiful.
See this play!
Directed by Robert John Connor
Starring: Kerwin Thompson, Carlus Houston and Anthony Goolsby
West End Performing Arts Center, Atlanta, GA
November 5th - 22nd