By Daniel Skora
George Montgomery is a man used to wielding firepower. Not the kind that comes from guns and bullets, but the kind that results from an accomplished use of character and ability. Like those years George spent quarterbacking his high school football team with a throwing arm that knew no equal. Like his current role as a power broker in his first-term as an African American City Councilman in Washington, D.C. But George now finds himself in the midst of a real test of his firepower. His two sons have returned home bringing with them family secrets which threaten to erode the emotional balance that has long been a hallmark of George’s character. And prostate cancer and its resulting chemotherapy treatments are causing problems with the physical aspects of his relationship with a much younger female companion.
“Firepower” is the current presentation of The Detroit Repertory Theatre. It tells the sometimes amusing but always emotional story of the Montgomery’s, an African American family consisting of George (David Luther Glover), and his two sons Tyrone (T.C., played by Jonathan West) and Edward (Eddie, played by William Bryson). Mrs. Montgomery and a daughter who was struck by an automobile many years ago are both deceased.
There’s plenty of family intrigue in this world premier by author and playwright Kermit Frazier. Neither of George’s sons has been close to their father since their mother’s death. Eddie, in fact, has been away for some twenty years, missing his mother’s funeral in the process. Their homecoming marks the first time they will meet their father’s companion Elizabeth (Jennifer Cole). T.C. has brought with him his partner Neil (Daniel Johnson), which promises to be of great surprise to his father. And even before Eddie comes knocking on his father’s door, he makes a stop at the home of Joanne Wells (Casaundra Freeman), a former friend and lover who’s also close friends with Elizabeth.
The play (and George’s term as councilman) takes place in 1989, which allows playwright Frazier to reference some political history concerning Marion Berry, who was Mayor of Washington D.C. at the time and an astute user of his own brand of firepower. It also places T.C.’s sexual orientation at a time where homosexual lifestyles were not as readily accepted as they are today.
The family gathering has opened up several contentious issues. The visit to the father’s home has caused a mini-crisis in the relationship between T.C. and Neil. Edward wants to rekindle old passions with his former flame. George becomes concerned that Elizabeth may bolt for a younger man, and new information regarding the death of the brothers’ sister may throw the family reunion into chaos. Will “firepower” be enough to save the day?
“Firepower” packs a lot of familial interaction into its two hour plus intermission running time. Though George is the play’s primary focus, everyone has an emotional stake in how the family gathering will eventually turn out. Directed by Lynch Travis, Detroit Rep’s production is both entertaining and notable. The play’s various subplots, which sometime seem to have a way of going off on their own, make for interesting little playlets in themselves.
The show is nicely cast. Theatre-goers may remember West and Freeman paired in Performance Network’s exceptional and moving production of “Yellowman”. Daniel Johnson turns in a fine performance as T.C.’s partner Neil, as does Jennifer Cole as George’s female companion.
Several monologues in the script provide excellent opportunities for actors to showcase their talents, but also make for some rather awkward moments as others participating in the scene have to stand by silently while the actor lucky enough to have the spotlight does his thing.
The set is an unadorned assemblage of multi-layered platforms, steps, and cubes backed by faux classical columns all done in a unified white-marbled effect. Design and construction are by Detroit Rep Production Manager Harry Wetzel. Lighting is by Thomas Schraeder, costumes by Sandra Glover, and sound by Burr Huntington.
“Firepower” runs through March 12th. Tickets are available for purchase with MasterCard or Visa by calling 313.868.1347. Besides single seat tickets, Detroit Repertory Theatre has several subscription packages that can be purchased at any time and are good for a year from date of purchase. Visit their site at www.DetroitRepTheatre.com for more information or email them at DetRepTh@aol.com. The Detroit Rep Theatre is located at 13103 Woodrow Wilson in Detroit.