Actress-writer Iona Morris offers a semi-surrealistic view of growing up as the daughter of Greg Morris, one of the first black actors to achieve television star status as a regular on the landmark 1960s series “Mission: Impossible.” Under Tanya Boyd’s heavy-handed direction, Morris’ efforts to place every aspect of her narrative into a strong emotional context is often theatrically inventive but doesn’t succeed in illuminating her father’s life and career.
Shifting back and forth from a variety of characters, including herself as a child and a woman, her mother, and of course Greg himself, Iona follows her father’s life from his early childhood in Cleveland through his tenure in the Army, where he took his mother’s maiden name (Morris) rather than honor the name of the man who deserted him and his mother.
She then follows the supremely self-directed young man through his one-year stay at Ohio State (where he met his future wife, Lee), and his would-be basketball career at the U. of Iowa, which shifted to drama when his athletic mentor Bucky O’Connor was killed.
Morris chronicles her father’s years in Hollywood as a constant struggle to completely control his fate as an actor, as the head of his family and as a leading representative of his race in the entertainment industry. She relates her father’s vehement refusal to play negative black roles, a decision that severely hampered his career after his long tenure on “Mission: Impossible.” A good deal of her narrative also focuses on his increasing alcoholism and escalating irrationality, which she constantly refers to as her daddy’s “big mean dragon.”
But her portrayal of her father is strangely more caricature than character, depicting him as a constantly posturing, always hip-talking man with a chip on his shoulder, a man who never relaxed. She fails to transcend the reality of being a woman overplaying the persona of a man.