WELCOME TO BLACK RIVER [Drama/Alcoholism/Family/Race] A: Samm Willams; D: Dean Irby; P: Negro Ensemble Company; T: St. Marks Playhouse (OB); 5/20/75-5/25/75 (8)
NOTE: no photos are available for this production.
The final production in the month-long Negro Ensemble Company’s “A Season-Within-a-Season” new play festival, written by one of the company’s best young actors, Samm Williams (a.k.a. Samm-Art Williams), was probably the best of the series It seemed to have been “wrenched from the playwright’s hear . . . and experience,” wrote Mel Gussow.
Despite being marred by excessive melodrama, it packed a wallop in its portrayal of a 1958 North Carolina sharecropper family—father (Clayton Corbin), mother (Lea Scott), and two sons (Taurean Blacque and Frankie Faison). The sons are contrasting types, one a bitter, n’er-do-well alcoholic, the other on the dim side. Williams depicts the family crisis centering on the father and his cynical son while creating a threatening world around them involving jujus, hurricanes, and floods.
“Honest emotion and moral fervor,” wrote Gussow, made the play appear worthy of further development.
Do you enjoy Theatre’s Leiter Side? As you may know, since New York’s theatres were forced into hibernation by Covid-19, this blog has provided daily posts on the hundreds of shows that opened in the city, Off and on Broadway, between 1970 and 1975. These have been drawn from an unpublished manuscript that would have been part of my multivolume Encyclopedia of the New York Stage series, which covers every show, of every type, from 1920 through 1950. Unfortunately, the publisher, Greenwood Press, decided it was too expensive to continue the project beyond 1950.
Before I began offering these 1970-1975 entries, however, Theatre’s Leiter Side posted over 1,600 of my actual reviews for shows from 2012 through 2020. The first two years of that experience were published in separate volumes for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 (the latter split into two volumes). The 2012-2013 edition also includes a memoir in which I describe how, when I was 72, I used the opportunity of suddenly being granted free access to every New York show to begin writing reviews of everything I saw. Interested readers can find these collections on Amazon.com by clicking here.
Next up: What Every Woman Knows.