Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 23, 2008


Williamstown Theatre, Williamstown
Through July 20
By Shera Cohen

It’s not often that a play’s world premiere takes place in our region. It’s also not often that a playwright’s first piece of work is staged by such a well-known and respected venue as Williamstown Theatre Festival. Those two factors do not necessarily make for success. Yet, in the case of “Broke-ology,” the audience’s applause and standing ovation (including this reviewer) at the play’s end would lead many to believe that this play has a long life on the stage.

It’s a strange title, for sure. One character coined it and explains it as a college degree in “being broke (poor),” and this man would receive an A+. His younger brother, however, recently graduated from “real” college with a double major. The differences and conflict between these young men are immediately set. While in a happy marriage, their parents often see life from opposite points of view.

The setting is a poverty-stricken neighborhood, Kansas. But it could be Anywhere, USA. The times are 1982 and 2007. The family is African-American. Author Nathan Louis Jackson and Director Thomas Kail take these four characters and immediately make them real people. There are no good guys and bad guys; they are each human, opinionated, likable, and even lovable. The bottom line for the audience is that we care.

Every actor is exceptional, and while it is cliché, they seem born to portray their roles. Francois Battiste (the older brother) was outstanding. An actor with numerous Broadway and regional theatre credits, Battiste has also appeared in films. Like the long life of this play, here is a young actor to watch as he climbs the latter to his own success.

Some might think of the Nikos Stage at Williamstown as the smaller second cousin with plays that are less important or skillfully produced as those on the Mainstage. That would not be true. This is a wonderful venue, particularly for experimentation with new works before a live audience. Except for one detail at the play’s end (which will not be revealed) the story, dialogue, and execution were perfect. Take a chance on future Nikos productions.