Andrea Fulton's A Punk or A Gentleman
Big Subjects Treated with Humor and Feeling
By: Rachel de Aragon - May 08, 2018
Theatre for the New City and the Fulton Foundation are presenting Andrea Fulton’s “A Punk or a Gentleman”. Andrea Fulton has an uncanny knack for giving us an incisive vision of difficult social issues. We are asked to reconfigure our preconceptions. Her topic, domestic violence, is not what you might expect. The victim is a man and he, like 25% of American men, is experiencing physical abuse at the hands of his wives and girlfriends.
The scene is an ordinary row house in anywhere USA. Our protagonist, Darren (Allen Craig Harris), is a postman. His friends wonder, Is Darren soft, a punk, a fellow who can’t stand up for himself? Or is Darren a gentleman and a decent man?
We meet this emotionally beleaguered man as his third marriage dissolves. He is successful in an ordinary workingman’s way. Yet, he is burdened by unfulfilled dreams of being a poet, a performer, and man of importance. Is taking on the role of playboy as a way to find the admiration he craves?
Darren finds himself literally beaten down by his wife, Dezzarray (Denise Fair-Grant). But as his co-worker and friend, Gwen (Alicia Foxworth), tells him, he is always in the same situation no matter to whom he is married. A nosey neighbor next door, Miss Betty (actor/director Kymbali Craig) has watched him ride through his life from her porch. She has warned him, cajoled him, and ultimately offers help. There is plenty of room in the script for the characters to develop, as Darren’s backstory is brought to life. The character Betty acts an effective catalyst-device throughout the play.
This is no sob story. The dialogue is brisk and filled with humor. Andrea Fulton not only understands her subject, but also people. There are no villains. We see everyday men and women struggling for their sense of dignity and purpose in their relationships.
As an African-American playwright, Fulton explores the subject within the context of that experience. This is not a play about “race”. It is a play about the culture of pain and violence that plays itself out within our families, in spite of our best intentions. It gives us hope for change. It asks us to laugh again and again at the poignant and preposterous.
The talent-packed cast has a great deal to offer, including a schedule of Talk Back panels to explore domestic violence and provide services to those who might be interested.