A Sunbeam opened last night at the 5th Biennial National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It was written by John Henry Redwood, directed by Lillie Marie Redwood and presented by Gertrude Jeannette's H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players.
The group is based in Harlem, New York City, where it recently mounted the production. A Sunbeam stars Micki Grant (Celia), Lawrence James (Maceo), Ava Coffee (Lynda), Mel Donaldson (Sol) and Bruce Jenkins (Melvin).
This play is about Celia, the mother of a retarded, epileptic (Sol), who has been institutionalized for 3/4 of his life. Celia has a heart condition and worries about his future when she dies.
Celia has been married to Maceo for 40 years, but it's in name only. She slips in the beginning and mentions the name John, she also talks about Sol being "her" son. Eventually, it comes out that she was pregnant with John Walls' baby when she married Maceo. She told him she didn't love him, but he hoped things would change over time.
Maceo seems to dislike Sol. But, he really is just hurt from Celia's rejection. He has affairs, because he's driven out to seek love and attention elsewhere. Celia's only focus is Sol. She wants to take him out of the institution. For his 40 birthday, she gets permission to take him home. Sol never returns. In a delusional state, Celia believes that Sol can die and be reincarnated. She wants to switch places with Sol. She'll be behind bars and he'll be free. To that end she poisons his strawberry Kool-aid by adding rat poisoning to sweeten it. As the play ends, Celia is singing a reoccurring song, "Sunbeam." Earlier on the song was supposed to help one cheer up and in its final use helps Sol to get through the deadly stomach cramps caused by the poison.
The play ends with Celia holding Sol while he lays on the floor reeling in pain until he's dead.
-- By Linda Armstrong