*(Press release) Johnny Williams is a Black man in New York with a bar and restaurant who also runs a small stable of prostitutes. One of them, a young white woman named Dee, is in love with him. It’s not enough for him, however. He has big plans, and awaits the release of his mentor, Sweets Crane, from the penitentiary.
It’s a milieu of gangsters , hustlers, and rough characters, but two of Johnny’s regulars, Gabe and Mel, have loftier ambitions. Gabe is an actor and poet; Mel is a dancer (and sometimes works in Johnny’s kitchen).
Johnny has opened his joint downtown, which is the turf of the white Mafia. His position is precarious enough, but when he makes a judge’s daughter one of his girls and uses her as a pawn in a scheme to blackmail the local Mafia boss, he’s really headed for trouble.
There are gangsters, guns, and girls in the first play by an African American playwright and the first play from off-Broadway ever to win a Pulitzer Prize (1970). The Civil Rights era play was first produced at a time when Black people anticipated being born into “a new life,” in Gabe’s words.
Subtitled “a Black-black comedy,” No Place To Be Somebody was described by playwright Charles Gordone as being “about country folk who had migrated to the big city, seeking the urban myth of success, only to find disappointment, despair and death.”
Charles Gordone (1925-1995) first made his mark as an actor, winning an Obie Award in 1953 in an all-Black production of “Of Mice And Men.” He was also in the cast of the 1961-1966 production of Jean Genet’s “The Blacks,” sharing the stage with James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelou. It was during this period that Gordone became inspired to become a prolific playwright. His other works include “Baba Chops,” “The Block,” “Gordone Is A Muthah,” “The Last Chord,” “A Little More Light Around The Place,” and more.
He strove through much of his professional career to advance the cause of a theatre that was multi-racial like himself (he was also part- Native American and part white). At the end of his life, Gordone was teaching at Texas A&M University, a formerly segregated institution.
Ben Guillory directs. He is the Producing Artistic Director of Robey Theatre Company, the institution he co-founded with Danny Glover over 20 years ago, delivering excellence in Black theatre. Guillory’s cast for No Place to Be Somebody includes Allison Blaize, Leith Burke, Ray Dennis, Hawthorne James, Matt Jennings, Saadiqa Kamillah, Ben Landmesser, Meghan Lang, Gianluca Malacrino, Monty Montgomery, Darrell Phillip. Kacie Rogers and Sammie Wayne IV.
Production stage manager: Tamir Elbassir, Set design: Thomas Meleck. Lighting design: Michael D. Ricks. Costume design: Naila Aladdin Sanders. Assistant costume designer: Melanie Powell. Graphic design: Jason Mimms.
“No Place To Be Somebody” is a 20th Century classic. With its tale of ambition, power, sex, and conflict, it has much to entertain today’s audience.
Previews for “No Place To Be Somebody” are March 31 and April 1. Opens Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 8:00 pm. Runs through Sunday, May 8. Show times Thurs.- Sat. at 8:00 pm, Sun. at 3:00 pm. Also, Monday, April 18 at 7:00 pm.
Venue: Los Angeles Theatre Center, Theatre 4, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013.
ADMISSION: $30. With I.D., students, seniors (60+), veterans, LAUSD teachers, $20.
RESERVATIONS: (866) 811-4111.
ONLINE TICKETING: www.thelatc.org