There comes those rare moments where various pieces of things fall together to create something that is unmistakable from reality and the story it tells. Such is the case in the Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s production of BROKE-OLOGY.
Broke-ology written by Kansas City, Kansas native Nathan Louis Jackson and using KCK as it’s setting is an intimate window into the lives of the King family masterfully crafted on the Copaken stage. When we first meet William (David Emerson Toney) and a very pregnant Sonia (Shamika Cotton) they may be poor, re-creating fancy shirts like those they see at the local department stores at home, but their love is strong.
Flashing forward about thirty years William is coping with his diagnosis, and expensive twice daily injection and pill regimen to combat multiple sclerosis. He dearly misses his since passed beloved Sonia. He relies on his eldest son Ennis (Postell Pringle) to aid him with his daily shots. Both men are welcoming the recently returned Malcolm (Larry Powell). Malcolm, a recent college graduate returns home for the summer unaware of his father’s true condition and needed assistance. He had planned to return to Connecticut where he attended school at the end of the summer. Ennis is expecting his first child and soon won’t have the time to take care of their father as he has been. Malcolm is now faced with the choice of pursuing his dreams or taking care of obligations.
Broke-ology works on a number of levels. There were several times through out the show that I forgot I was watching a work of fiction. According to the show’s news release, and a brief chat I had with the play wright’s mother, there are many elements in the story rooted in events from playwright Jackson’s past. This might be part of the reason several times in the show I forgot that I was watching a work of fiction and not just peering into a window in KCK and watching the lives of the family unfold. The performances are so organic they don’t feel like performances, I believed that these people were real.
The story is filled with some emotional heft and is very telling of the modern times we live in and which it depicts. I have experienced the debilitating effects that multiple sclerosis can have on family members and found it’s portrayal quite accurate. While most of the show can be filled with some pretty serious fare there are plenty of light hearted moments to keep the proceedings from becoming too gloomy. Some of it is downright funny and is handled with a precise steady hand considering too much in either direction could easily ruin the balance of how engaging it becomes.
The production benefits greatly from the intimate setting at the Copaken stage and the excellent set design. This contemporary tale is told in a setting that reminds me of my grandmother’s house where I spent my childhood in the eighties, that like the King’s home has changed little if any since those days.
Broke-ology is easily one of the top productions I have seen this season at the Rep. It is one of those cases where all the perfect elements have fallen into place to create compelling theatre that I can easily recommend you see as soon as you possibly can.
Broke-ology has performances Tuesday through Sunday through March 21 at the Copaken stage. Tickets start at $15 dollars. For specific dates and show times visit www.kcrep.org or call the box office at 816-235-2700