Broke-ology marks a number of firsts for the local theater scene: It’s the first full play produced in the Anacostia Playhouse, the first play presented east of the Anacostia River by Theater Alliance, and the first area staging of a drama by Nathan Louis Jackson, whose work has been gathering acclaim since Broke-ology played at New York’s Lincoln Center in 2009. Theater Alliance artistic director Colin Hovde, on record as saying he’s no fan of “kitchen-sink dramas,” has made an exception for Broke-ology, which even features a kitchen sink in the set. “The play is naturalistic,” Hovde says, “but it’s in the spirit of Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, and Eugene O’Neill. It has magical elements but is really about family and people.”
Running August 16 through September 8, Broke-ology is about a father and his two sons who are struggling to support one another after the father’s health fails. The elder son, who has a blue-collar job, expounds on his theory of “broke-ology,” the complex science of being broke. His younger brother returns home following his postgrad studies to find his family resenting his absence. “It’s a powerful story that deals with issues that are relevant to the community of Anacostia, but it is in no way didactic or presumptuous,” Hovde says. “For me, having it be the first Theater Alliance play in Anacostia is about opening a dialogue and beginning a relationship.”
For more than a decade, Theater Alliance was based at Northeast DC’s H Street Playhouse, which moved to Anacostia after rents priced it out of the neighborhood. The company hopes to maintain a presence in the Capitol Hill area while presenting works in its new location. Broke-ology’s cast and crew include Howard alums G. Alverez Reid and Marlon Russ as the father and one of his sons, Helen Hayes Award-winning costume designer Reggie Ray, and New York director Candace Feldman.
Says Hovde: “One of the things I love about Nathan is that as a black writer, he doesn’t write black plays—he writes plays. Broke-ology presents a beautiful picture of a family that happens to be black, but he doesn’t make that the central concern. His is a strong way to approach storytelling and a voice that needs to be heard.”
Broke-ology. August 16 to September 8 at Theater Alliance. Tickets ($25) at theateralliance.com.
This article appears in the August 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.