Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 22, 2018

REVIEW: Williamstown Theatre Festival, Artney Jackson

Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, MA
through July 22, 2018
by Shera Cohen

Bravo to Williamstown Theatre Festival for a season full of world premieres, one of which is “Artney Jackson” by James Anthony Tyler.

The story represents a contemporary slice of life, in an oft-seen location, with people who you encounter every day, and conversation about mundane tales, and gossip. Sound familiar? Picture the boring break room at a cable television, six employees, a refrigerator, vending machine, and not much more. Except for a table and chairs in the center, the focus is the characters – four men and two women, various ages, none of whom are high on the ladder to success, all African-American.

“Artney” is a pleasant little play, reflecting the period of one workweek, and 90-minutes in length. It’s not a story that audience members will ponder after exiting the theatre. But, that’s okay. There’s always joy in watching fine acting, especially by young actors; i.e. Joshua Boone, Christopher Livingston, and Alfie Fuller.

Ray Anthony Thomas
Ray Anthony Thomas, in the role of Artney, portrays head of the break room, father figure, and regular guy. In the lead role, Thomas, along with Director Laura Savia, is giving to his fellow actors, permitting each to prove his/her gift of talent. Thomas, a Broadway actor, quickly becomes the conduit who the other characters respect.

“Artney” stands on the edge of cliché, but never falls. Much of the very humorous chit-chat dialog meanders into serious territory; i.e. the fragility of parenting an adult schizophrenic, “acceptance” of age vs. youth in the employment milieu, and the bravado of making it alone in the world.  The six actors cause their audience to root for their characters, knowing that there will be bumps along the way for each.