You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Off Broadway Review: ‘Sugar in Our Wounds’

Man-to-man love blooms in Donja R. Love’s play, even in the slave quarters of a plantation in the deep South during the Civil War.

Stephanie Berry, Sheldon Best, Fern Cozine, Tiffany Rachelle Stewart, Chinaza Uche.

Director Saheem Ali and the very fine designers of the Manhattan Theater Club have created a magical setting for Donja R. Love’s “Sugar in our Wounds,” a romantic drama (the first in a trilogy) about two male slaves who find love in each other’s arms as the American Civil War rages. Regrettably, once he makes a big business of bringing the two lovers together, the playwright has little else to say about slavery, the South or the war.

But let’s hear it for the Tree! The centerpiece of Arnulfo Maldonado’s austerely gorgeous set is a tree of heroic proportions. The roots of this colossus can’t be contained in the earth and its topmost limbs stretch far out of sight. Legend has it that this is a hanging tree, but with delicate mosses dangling like lace handkerchiefs, you can’t really see the blood of history dripping from its boughs.

The great tree is the gathering place for slaves on the unnamed plantation where the play is set. Aunt Mama, an earth mother played by Stephanie Berry with crushing conviction, plies visitors with whatever food and drink she has at hand, while delivering maternal lectures on life and love in a thick dialect laced with earthy profanities. Mattie (Tiffany Rachelle Stewart), a sweet young woman inexperienced in the ways of the world, lets Aunt Mama interpret that world for her. James, another young innocent Aunt Mama has taken under her wing, is played by Sheldon Best with the blooming but untapped passion of a young Romeo, a role he played at the Public Theater and for the Classical Theater of Harlem. Mattie, understandably, can’t take her eyes off this beautiful youth. Who could?

Certainly not Henry, a manly man played by Chinaza Uche with trouser buttons just bursting to be free. Although love-starved Mattie makes a successful if undignified lunge for Henry during the night, Henry has his eye on James, and after chasing him around the tree a few times eventually initiates him into the miracle of sex, and possibly even love.

And that, you see, is just about it. In a program note, Love writes: “The existence of Queer people of color, particularly of African descent, has repeatedly been washed over, or forgotten altogether.” His intention, he says, is to honor the “neglected stories” of queer love in pivotal moments of history – “Sugar in Our Wounds” being his entry for the period of slavery in America. Knowing that the love story of Henry and James is part of a grand dramaturgical design gives it more weight. But experienced on its own, the romance speaks its name but moves on without leaving any echoes from its moment in history.

Off Broadway Review: ‘Sugar in Our Wounds’

Manhattan Theater Club / Stage II Studio; 150 seats; $30 top. Opened June 19, 2018. Reviewed June 17. Running time: ONE HOUR, 45 MIN.

Production: A Manhattan Theatre Club production of a play in one act by Donja R. Love.

Creative: Directed by Saheem Ali. Set, Arnulfo Maldonado; costumes, Dede Ayite; lighting, Jason Lyons; sound, Palmer Hefferan; original music, Michael Thurber; production stage manager, Jereme Kyle Lewis.

Cast: Stephanie Berry, Sheldon Best, Fern Cozine, Tiffany Rachelle Stewart, Chinaza Uche.

More Legit

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City last was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, [...]

  • Pat Gelbart Obit Dead

    Actress Pat Gelbart, Wife of 'MASH' Creator, Dies at 94

    Pat Gelbart, widow of late “MASH” creator Larry Gelbart, died surrounded by family at her home in Westwood, Calif. on Dec. 11. She was 94. Gelbart was born in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1928 as Marriam Patricia Murphy. When she met her husband, Gelbart was an actress, known for the 1947 musical “Good News,” in which [...]

  • To Kill a Mockingbird review

    Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    Against all odds, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher have succeeded in crafting a stage-worthy adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The ever-likable Daniels, whose casting was genius, gives a strong and searching performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town Southern lawyer who epitomizes the ideal human qualities of goodness, [...]

  • Isabelle HuppertIsabelle Huppert Life Achievement Award,

    Isabelle Huppert, Chris Noth to Appear on Stage in 'The Mother'

    Isabelle Huppert will appear opposite Chris Noth in the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of “The Mother.” It marks the U.S. premiere of the show. “The Mother” was written by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton. Huppert, an icon of European film, was Oscar-nominated for “Elle” and appears in the upcoming Focus Features [...]

  • Could Anyone Follow ‘Springsteen on Broadway’?

    Could Anyone Follow 'Springsteen on Broadway'? Here Are Five Things They'd Need (Guest Column)

    After 235-odd shows, with grosses in excess of $100 million, a Special Tony Award and a hotly anticipated Netflix special debuting Sunday, “Springsteen on Broadway” is an unprecedented Broadway blockbuster. As with any success in entertainment, the rush to replicate The Boss’ one-man show reportedly is under way, with a consortium led by Live Nation, CAA [...]

  • Clueless review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Clueless' the Musical

    How does a musical stage adaptation of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film comedy of oblivious privileged teens, “Clueless,” play in the era of female empowerment and millennial engagement? True, the principal skills of lead teen Cher Horowitz are the superficial ones of mall shopping and makeovers. But her sweet spirit and independence, plus some added P.C. relevance, [...]

  • Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary,

    Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary, 'Hugo Cabret' Musical

    Producers Tim Headington and Theresa Steele Page have unveiled Ley Line Entertainment with a Brian Wilson documentary and a “Hugo Cabret” musical in the works. Ley Line said it’s a content development, production, and financing company with projects spanning film, television, stage, and music. Headington financed and produced “The Young Victoria,” “Argo,” “Hugo,” and “World [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content