By E.M. Fredric
I want people to know that it’s okay to laugh, to find the joyous moments… I didn’t intend to write a play that’s just about grief. Inda Craig-Galván
Westwood, Ca (The Hollywood Times) 03/15/2019 – Move over Black Panther – there’s a new hero in town! Black Super Hero Magic Mama written by Inda Craig-Galván and directed by Robert O’Hara has landed at The Geffen’s Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater in Westwood with resounding aplomb! In a world of what we’ve come to expect – Galvan’s writing has gifted us with the unexpected by remaining true to her characters with her own unique style. It is the story of a single black mother, Sabrina Jackson, (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) whose 14 year-old son, Tramarion (Cedric Joe) is shot and killed by a white cop (Walter Belenky). We’re taken on an unusual journey from the real to the surreal as we witness and feel the cracked and jagged edges of both grief and anger that’s tempered with laughter. The resounding sadness accompany you, long after the curtain call.
Black Super Hero Magic Mama is highly inventive, brave and heartbreaking as we’re given a hero we all can relate to. The scenes leading up to Tramarion’s death aren’t trite and the play begins a different side of the dialogue (Black Lives Matter) while answering through Sabrina’s inability to be what the community and her community think she should be. What’s another single black mother who has just lost her child – to and yet another police shooting – expected to do? Why should she be slated to stand strong in front of a frenzied media and lead protests when her life’s blood was violently silenced? Her grief and depression hang heavy as her sister, Lena (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) tries to get Sabrina to take a bath, change her clothes or to just speak. McWilliams and Gregory shine as sisters who believably play off the depths of despair and the comedic moments necessary to make this piece fly high and it succeeds in raising the bar of consciousness in an act that has happened too many times while not discounting the mother’s right to come to terms with her loss as she needs to. Grieving isn’t the same for all and this play lets this woman mourn in a fantastical way where her son never dies. But if she remains she’ll never live.
I wrote this play as a defiant response to that expectation of the Black Mother to show up and be brave and strong. What happens if a mother doesn’t? What if she can’t? Inda Craig-Galván
In the second act Sabrina assumes the role of the Maasai Angel rather than the expected part of grieving mother. It is here that she battles her arch enemies along the way to some kind of peace or acceptance of her circumstances. All moms are supposed to be superheroes and Kimberly Hebert Gregory emits a brilliant shine as Sabrina.
Director Robert O’Hara’s cast is superb – with some of the adults undertaking multiple roles – as they traverse forward and backward in time with impeccable comedic timing and pathos where needed. The younger actors are suited to their roles as naïve young men with the little boy still lingering in them. The comic book they’re developing is pivotal to the plot. It is in the realm of the superhero world that Sabrina can fight and work out the depths of her anger and despair to re-enter the broken world we all reside in. The beauty in the writing and acting is that no one loses their humanity.
The Geffen’s current Lights Out: Nat King Cole will end soon. It is this writer’s hope that Black Super Hero Magic Mama finds a home in the larger theatre – if not here – somewhere. Yes, the possibilities are endless and thank you, Inda Craig-Galván for a fresh voice on an all too common topic by including us all on various levels. Loss, grief, questioning one’s sanity when hit hard by life’s daggers and our differences and similarities are all introduced against the backdrop of a fantasy world as Sabrina as a different kind of hero. Fairytales are filled with characters dealing tragedies as they deal with vengeance or forgiveness – through Sabrina we watch her evolution with a hero not seen before. SEE this play!
The Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles 90024. Tickets run $30-$120.00 Available in person at The Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at 310.208.5454 or online. Play runs through April 14, 2019 at Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater