What are you willing to risk to fight for what you believe in?
This is the question posed of a young man who decides to give up a college scholarship and pursuit of higher learning versus becoming a freedom rider with a group of civil rights activists in a crusade for equality.
These brave individuals rode buses into the segregated southern states in 1961 to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court anti-discrimination decisions. The cost of being a freedom rider was the horrific experience of being under siege by police dogs, bombs, white mobs, and fire hoses.
The 2016 graduate of Yale’s acclaimed playwright program, Jireh Breon Holder, brings to the stage of Timeline Theatre the premiere of Too Heavy for Your Pocket. It is a compelling drama set in the summer of 1961 in Nashville, Tennessee, where the stench of injustice and inequality is forever present in the South.
Holder’s play revolves around two close-knit couples struggling to make a better future for themselves despite the odds against them when the world that they live in doesn’t even allow them to breathe the equality of freedom. The action takes place in the comfort of a shabby little kitchen where everyone wipes their feet before entering the house, and the outside grass has encroached into the house in patches.
Director Ron “OJ” Parson, who is known for his brilliance in directing some of Chicagoland’s greatest plays, brings Too Heavy For Your Pocket to life with four amazing characters during a tumultuous time in the history of oppression against Blacks.
Seen through the lenses of gender and class, this two-act play deals with civil rights and equality, where the personal cost and private struggles that Blacks faced helped shape the laws of our nation. Riding against injustices like education, busing, and equal rights to use public spaces, the action of freedom riders spoke loud and clear and told the world that one day, we shall overcome.
Twenty-year-old Bowzie Brandon (Jalen Gilbert) is the central character of the play, a guy who loves to play the fool to cover up his intelligence and vulnerability. He has a significant decision to make. Should he be the pride and joy of his family and friends and be the first to go to college at Fisk University on a scholarship or fight for equality with the freedom riders?
Bowzie’s wife, Evelyn Brandon (Ayanna Bria Bakari) is a singer who was a very independent, sophisticated woman before marriage and supports Bowzie while he seeks his degree. However, his decision to join the freedom riders pushes her to the limits, making her wonder if she should continue to support the man she loves or the fool she fears might be killed by joining the riders.
Sally-Mae Carter (Jennifer Latimore) is the pregnant beautician who has a quiet strength and is the mediator throughout the play. She loves her husband, Tony Carter (Cage Sebastian Pierre) dearly and wants nothing more than for her philandering gambling man to come home and take ownership of his actions.
Sally is the calming force of reason of the four and supports Bowzie’s decision to be a freedom rider. She tries to ease the fear within Evelyn and Tony about Bowzie, but she also wants to breathe and be seen as someone needing to be loved and understood. In their journey of finding justice and love while maintaining their responsibilities to each other and themselves, their friendship will be tested.
The cast of undeniably talented actors is mesmerizing, as they all equally carry the play by complimenting one another with vigor in this essential and profound story.
The freedom riders, who were a mixture of races, were not afraid of being mistreated, beaten or even facing death as they marched and bused their way to protest injustice. It is something we seem to have lost in our government today where our president continuously seems to divide our country through race. This play brings back into the minds of Americans that love, not hate, makes us great!
Too Heavy For Your Pocket is by far the number one play of the year and will have its audience hypnotized by four great performances and leave them asking for more. It’s a riveting, powerhouse play that will pull at your emotions with laughter and tears.
Let’s Play Highly Recommends that you see this beautiful and formidable play at Timeline Theatre, located at 615 West Wellington Avenue, running through June 29. For more information, visit https://timelinetheatre.com/.