By Edward Henderson

When art reflects life, it gives the audience an opportunity to examine the beauty as well as the flaws of society. We oftentimes get the opportunity to see our own reflection in the words and theatrical interpretations from complete strangers. These moments grab hold of something deep inside of us, solicit our attention, and doesn’t let go until days later.

Christina Anderson’s ‘Blacktop Sky’ serves as a mirror for issues in our society surrounding homelessness, police violence, relationships and above all, empathy.

The Ira Aldridge Repertory Players, a non-profit community theater company, is staging Blacktop Sky 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30pm Sundays through June 25th at the Educational Cultural Complex theater, 4343 Ocean View Blvd.

The play, inspired by the Greek myth “Leda and the Swan”, is centered around the relationship between Ida Peter (Tina Machele Brown), an 18 year old high school graduate trying to make it out of her housing project, and Klass (Wrekless Watson), a homeless twenty-something who lives on a bench in the project.

After losing her keys while protesting the death of another homeless man, Ida and her boyfriend Wynn (Kendrick Dial) discover Klass has the keys on his person, but refuses to give them back during a separate interaction with Ida. The ordeal eventually blossoms into a relationship where they each divulge their stories in a notebook Klass finds. These journal entries plant the seeds of empathy that help Ida understand the reason why Klass is homeless at such a young age and begins to see him in a new light. In turn, Klass also discovers Ida’s inner thoughts and experiences that bring the two even closer tougher.

Wynn is obviously disturbed by the budding friendship between his girlfriend and a homeless man. The conflict grows between Wynn and Klass as the audience takes a front seat in the emotional rollercoaster of unfolding events between all three characters as they desperately pursue the dreams each want to come to pass.

Director Calvin Manson’s 40 years of experience and passion for African American Community Theater shines through in this project as he spoke on the importance of supporting the IARP and its productions before the play began. Founded in 1984, the IARP is dedicated to producing literary work that examines the African American experience and supports understanding and appreciation by all people.

There are moments in this piece that warrant a visit to the theater. Watson delivers a powerful monologue on life and responsibility as he reveals the dark past of his character. A second moment involving Watson and Brown hits home as they both internalize each other’s stories and emotionally connect through their shared pain and trauma. I’ve always believed truth just sounds different when you hear it. The lines delivered in both moments came from an honest place in each and had me at the edge of my seat absorbing everything they had to offer.

While ‘Blacktop Sky’ takes some time to develop and reveal the stories of its characters to really build a strong connection with the audience, the powerful moments in this play are worth the wait.

Tickets for ‘Blacktop Sky’ can be purchased for $25 by phone at (619) 283-4574, online at iarpplayers.org or at the door for $30.

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