Phillip Lewis is a freelancing director and playwright native to Chicago. He has worked with companies such as Silent Theatre Company, Pegasus Players, Oracle Theater, and Prop Thtr along with a number of Deaf theater companies. He primarily focuses on the aesthetics of storytelling involving the representation of intersectionality and accessibility for all. He hopes to soon be a part-time American Sign Language Interpreter and a full-time impactful director.
Pictured: Watson Swift and Christopher K. McMorris. Photo by Devon Green.
By Phillip Lewis
There is a lot to love about performances seeking to immortalize compassion in a compelling way. Michael Allen Harris traverses the misconceptions within the relationship of love and homosexuality. In doing so, an explosive and conflicting conversation is brought to an audience about what true love is and means today.
The driving force of KINGDOM maneuvers through metaphors of Mickey Mouse’s monarchal true-love ideology. Though slightly overemphasized, it is clear from the beginning that the characters love in a fantastical world while living in the real one. Such a relationship satisfies much of my curiosity in the story by itself. Truly, a play only about Christopher McMorris’s “Arthur” and Watson Swift’s “Henry” should sell for gold on any stage. There is a humanistic need and burning desire that simmers between the two until the boiling comes to head.
That said, I found the stories around them lacking in comparison. Many of the subplots surrounding the love of these two black men felt hurried and unaffected by the end of the play. The characters each have fun and interesting anecdotal narratives on their own but seem to simply fill in space for the main plot.
Phaedra, played by RjW Mays, packs a powerful and immensely peppered flavor to the family’s kingdom that could be developed into its own equally intriguing play. The slice of life we see of Phaedra seems to serve its primary supporting function, but her defining moments take a backseat, leaving me unsure how to feel about them.
The other elements of the play eventually come together, overall, into an expected and heartwarming ending moment. The emotions left behind are messy and complicated, but Michael Allen Harris has found a stylistic niche with his unclean characters with imperfect choices fighting for a better life.
In its essence, KINGDOM opens the doors to many discussions needing to be had about black gay men and the scarcity of affection. Some moments land harder than others, but as a whole, there is a beautiful message to experience in this 2-hour comedy.
KINGDOM runs through April 7th. For more information visit brokennosetheatre.com.