Make your way to the Dwyer Cultural Center in Harlem, New York City, before Oct. 30, to see Saviour?, a tremendously moving piece of theatre written by Esther Armah, international journalist and WBAI Wake-Up Call radio personality.
Armah creates a storyline around white privilege that keeps you on the edge of your seat. She gives the audience a white man who declares that he has always been on the side of Black people, that he has always fought for the rights of Black people. When the character is bypassed for a promotion and the job goes to a Black female, he cries “reverse discrimination” and seeks legal redress. He goes to a Black firm, where a Black attorney must convince him that he will successfully defend him “by any means necessary.”
Things are not always as clear as they seem, however, in this cleverly written play with its audacious high points and twists. Michael Jamal Williams III (portrayed by Michael Green) is a lawyer who has a lot more to lose than this case. His career has been at a dead-end for about 15 years; his shoes have holes in the bottom; and he has divorce and child custody issues. In separate asides, he makes notes to himself from his perspectives as a lawyer and as a down-to-earth Black man.
Billy Hall (played by Jimmy Aquino) has been part of the management of a group that fights for Civil Rights. He has protested, marched and been arrested for Black causes. He “loves” Black people. When a Black woman gets the job he considers rightfully his, he accuses her of sleeping her way to the top.
Ostensibly, the audience is viewing the unfolding of a defense strategy that is intended to get a White man a job, while destroying the reputation of a professional Black woman. Ostensibly. The real story comes out in Armah’s final brazen twist that keeps the audience glued to its seat in silence for several seconds after the stage goes dark.
This play is brilliantly acted by Green and Aquino and powerfully directed by Passion. It is co-produced by Voza Rivers, executive producer of New Heritage Theatre Group, and Debra Ann Byrd, founder and producing artistic director of Take Wing And Soar Productions.
“I intended to have a challenging conversation about Black men, women, race, white privilege, power and ambition in the age of Obama and I wanted to make sure there was humanity, hypocrisy, hurt, care, love, thought, intelligence, pain and humor,” Armah told TNJ.com in an interview.
Saviour? does all that and more.