Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 17, 2017

Where Storms Are Born

Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, MA
through July 23, 2017
By Barbara Stroup

Photo by Daniel Rader
The presentation of a brand new play takes some institutional courage, especially in a setting like the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where the season is short and the sixty-three season reputation is stellar. There is nothing shaky about “Where Storms Are Born” by Harrison David Rivers - a tight, true work from a voice that seems secure and authentic. The audience meets a mother and son just past a crisis, adjusting to a recent loss while discovering both individual strengths and the strength that comes from family bonds.

The creation of complex characters seems to flow from Mr. Rivers’ pen, drawing the viewer into both the family and the situation. In Bethea, his writing reveals layer after layer of a mother’s grief, humor, and inner resources.  Myra Lucretia Taylor is amazing in this key role – humorous, poignant, maternal and just plain believable. Her sons, Myles and Gideon, were ably acted by Christopher Livingston and LeRoy McClain.

Although the themes of wrongful incarceration, prison death, single parenting, and gay relationships have currency and newsworthiness, this is not a “campaign” play. The almost all-white audience seemed to have no difficulty identifying with the ups and downs of the on-stage family. There was just the right mix of humor to leaven the serious side, especially in Joniece Abbott-Pratt’s portrayal of a best friend aptly named Worthy. The dance sequence was a happy highlight.

Staging was minimal and effective use of a table at center stage allowed the frequent scene shifts to be seamless. The fire escape that dominated the set was where the brothers bonded, allowing the audience to see unusual and welcome expressions of tenderness between two men of color.

A play like this is why theater matters; we go sit in the dark to meet characters like this, and we leave thinking more fully about them, and even thirsting to know more of their journeys.