“I have heard this work described before as a play about losers. I don’t think that’s true. I do think it is a play about people who are struggling. It is also about the metropolitan myth of success.”
-A quote from Julio Martinez,’ his review of No Place To Be Somebody for @This Stage Magazine.
The Robey Theatre Company’s production of No Place To Be Somebody written by Charles Gordone, opened on April 2, 2016 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in Downtown Los Angeles. Charles Gordone was the first Black American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1970, it is said he was inspired to write this play after working as a bartender in Greenwich Village. Gritty, edgy, and in your face are often words or phrases used to describe this urban drama, but no matter how you choose to characterize this play, it still hits a cord with audiences today.
Before rehearsals began Ben Guillory, Robey Theatre Company’s Artistic Director and director of No Place To Be Somebody, had this to say about the play to the cast and crew:
Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to Robey’s first production of the 2016 Spring Season of the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Charles Gordone’s Pulitzer Prize play NO PLACE TO BE SOMEBODY is rarely performed these days. The language and extraordinary poetry is rough and in your face and it is this unflinching quality that conjures up this world and what makes it an unforgettable piece of writing. Its characters are razor sharp and unapologetic. Johnny Williams is out to get revenge on the white system that has excluded him, a reflection of many who’ve been marginalized too long and as a result lash out at all around them even those who care for them. This raw, gritty, violent, and lowdown noir world is a not-so-nice place but a specific one with its inhabitants all searching desperately for a way out of the place they’re in and a way into some place to become … somebody.
It would seem Lovell Estell III echoed Mr. Guillory’s sentiments in his article for Stage Raw.
“The play is an edgy mix of civil rights era Black Power agitprop and gangster saga and would doubtless seem dated to contemporary audiences — but it still speaks to pressing issues of our times, particularly America’s troubling racial divide. On one level, it takes place in the mind of actor-playwright Gabe Gabriel (Leith Burke), who occasionally steps out of his role and plays observer, delivering soliloquies which accentuate the play’s simmering frustrations and anger.
Though not a perfect play, this revival under Ben Guillory’s direction features solid performances, even in the minor roles. A dense malevolence and cynicism informs Wayne’s performance, and Hawthorne is delightfully unhinged as Sweets. Gordone’s superlative ear for gritty streetwise dialogue and his assemblage of flawed, all-too-human characters are its strongest elements.”