Friday, April 24, 2020

49. BLACK SUNLIGHT. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Richard Jackson, Mary Alice.
"In Lieu of Reviews"

For background on how this previously unpublished series—introducing all mainstream New York shows between 1970 and 1975—came to be and its relationship to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and revival between 1920 and 1950), please check the prefaces to any of the earlier entries beginning with the letter “A.” See the list at the end of the current entry.

BLACK SUNLIGHT [Drama/Africa/Friendship/Politics/Race] A: Al Davis; D: Kris Keiser; C: LaDonna Harris: L: Sandra Ross; P: Negro Ensemble Company; T: St. Marks Playhouse (OB); 3/19/74-3/24/74 (8)

While The Great MacDaddy was running in its main theatre, the Negro Ensemble Company staged a series of four plays for one week—between March 19 and April 14—each under the rubric, “A Season-Within-A-Season.” The others were “Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide,” by Herman Johnson; “Terraces,” by Steve Carter; and “Heaven and Hell’s Agreement,” by J.E. Gaines.

Black Sunlight, a “stiff but not uninteresting play,” according to Clive Barnes, was the first in the series. It was seemingly based on the career of Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumeh, and detailed the story of Mhandi (Richard Jackson), ruler of a young African state. A year after his country’s independence has been won, he learns that Kduni (Robert Christian), a friend and close associated in helping the new nation to its feet, has been accused of treason. The men confront each other and their conflict reveals that the apparently liberal Mhandi is indeed a dictator with totalitarian aspirations.

This political melodrama suffered from poor construction and overwriting, said Barnes, but had some strong moments in the scenes between the two leaders. Edith Oliver believed it to be “rather stiff and hollow . . . and as the plot unfolds the audience is a step ahead of the dramatist all the way.” The meaty parts, however, were well acted by a cast that included the distinguished actress Mary Alice.

Previous entries:

Abelard and Heloise
Absurd Person Singular
“Acrobats” and “Line”
The Advertisement/
All My Sons
All Over
All Over Town
All the Girls Came Out to Play
Alpha Beta
L’Amante Anglais         
American Gothics
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little       
And They Put Handcuffs on the Flowers
And Whose Little Boy Are You?
Anna K.
Anne of Green Gables
Any Resemblance to Persons Living or Dead
As You Like It
The Au Pair Man

Baba Goya [Nourish the Beast]
The Ballad of Johnny Pot
Barbary Shore
The Bar that Never Closes
The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel
The Beauty Part
The Beggar’s Opera
Behold! Cometh the Vanderkellens
Be Kind to People Week
Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill
Bette Midler’s Clams on a Half-Shell Revue
Black Girl
Black Light Theatre of Prague
Black Picture Show