“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King many years ago. One wonders if this earthly realm will ever see justice for all, especially as it pertains to Black America. Director and Playwright Margaret P. Bean explores this and other dilemmas in her aptly titled play Where Do We Go From Here.
Unlike her last play, Treachery Lies & Deception, which dove into personal relationships, this play contrasts Black America against society at large. Where Do We Go From Here is a series of historical vignettes, couched in songs. The play starts right after the Civil War and carries the audience to present-day struggles by Black Americans for their rights. It’s a show with an important message that needs to be spread.
Delores S. McDaniels delivered a powerful monologue as Amore Jus’tice, the mother of Equity Jus’tice (the wonderful child actor Jeremy Underwood Jr.). Her monologue set the table for the stories that followed.
Keith Scott was fantastic as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and Anissa Stewart’s performance as Coretta Scott King showed depth. Stewart sang a moving rendition of “Soon I’ll Be Done with the Troubles of this World.”
Kenneth Nelson played many emotional scenes as victims of police brutality such as Trayvon Martin, and Larry Payne, who was 16 when he was killed in 1968. As George Floyd’s son, Nelson repeatedly exhorted the audience to “Say his name!”
Larry Payne’s mother Ms. Payne was emotionally played by Lisa Lattimore. As Ms. Payne, she implored: “Did his life not mean anything?” Myesha Hurt had a similar role as Trayvon Martin’s mother. Hurt also displayed her powerful pipes when she movingly sang “Precious Lord” as Mahalia Jackson at Dr. King’s funeral.
Zach T. Brown pleased the audience as Marvin Gaye; his renditions of “What’s Going On” and “Make Me Want to Holler” were mesmerizing. Brown also sang Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Going to Come.”
The charismatic musician character Mr. Woodrow was played with panache by Gerald Lattimore. His Afro-wearing character would come on stage after riots and put on concerts, at Soul Soother Community Center, to “calm the people down.”
Ronita Overton served double duty as a defense lawyer for an accused killer cop and as a rapper during one of the concerts. Brenda Allen was marvelous as the Larry Paynes family lawyer.
Good performances were turned in by Laila Thomas as a reporter and Lauren Ella as police brutality victim Sandra Bland. Leilani Cartledge tied the scenes together as the Narrator. The other child actors more than held their own: Milan Amor’e Underwood as Young Donzaleigh Abernathy, Ryan McEachin as Young Bernice King, and Raegan McEachin as Young Yolanda King
Music Director Xavier Domonique Gilbert made sure the songs were flawless. I loved the vocals provided by The Amazing Singing Bynum Family: Dominique H. Bynum, Indasha Bynum, and Charles Bynum. What can I say about singer/rapper Rickety Raw aka Stinky Dink? He brought amazing energy to the songs “Fight the Power” and “Too Black, Too Strong.”
An upstage screen displayed Bean’s projection design. The scenic design and properties were a bit scant for my taste. For instance, the pay phone was depicted by a poster.
Wardrobe Manager Marion McDowell’s costumes were good in parts, but questionable in others. I loved Mr. Woodruff’s pimp shoes with goldfish in the heels, but wondered why the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King did not wear a ’60s-era suit.
Director Bean has crafted a show that makes you feel deeply. While not quite a musical, the show would have been better served if it had leaned more strongly in that direction.
Where Do We Go From Here is a captivating show that speaks to how justice is unfortunately often slow in coming — if ever. The producer, Reverend George C. Gilbert Jr., gave a wonderful mini-sermon at curtain. Hopefully, audiences will come away from this show inspired to take positive action to help ensure that equity and justice reign and we all “get to the promised land.”
Running Time: Approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
The program for Where Do We Go From Here is online here.
Where Do We Go From Here played for one night only on October 13, 2023, presented by MPB Entertainment performing at First Baptist Church of Highland Park, 6801 Sheriff Road, Landover, Maryland. For tickets to future shows, purchase online.
Where Do We Go From Here
Amore Jus’tice: Delores S. McDaniels
Rev. Martin Luther King: W. Keith Scott
Coretta Scott King: Anissa Stewart
Trayvon Martin: Kenneth Nelson
Trayvon Martin Mother: Myesha Hurt
Marvin Gaye: Zach T. Brown
Mr. Woodrow: Gerald Lattimore
Narrator: Leilani Cartledge
Ms. Payne: Lisa Lattimore
Trayvon Martin Lawyer: Brenda Allen
Defense Lawyer: Ronita Overton
Reporter: Laila Thomas
Sandra Bland: Lauren Ella
Equity Jus’tice: Jeremy Underwood Jr.
Young Donzaleigh Abernathy: Milan Amor’e Underwood
Young Bernice King: Ryan McEachin
Young Yolanda King: Raegan McEachin
The Amazing Singing Bynum Family: Dominique H. Bynum, Indasha Bynum, Charles Bynum
Band: Xavier Gilbert, Jeff Purdie, Corey Blocker, and Joshua Robinson
ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE TEAM
Playwright & Director: Margaret P. Bean
Producer: Reverend George C. Gilbert Jr.
Music Direction: Xavier Gilbert
Lighting and Projection Design: Margaret P. Bean
Scenic Design: Margaret P. Bean
Stage Crew: Denise Scott, Liam Dance
Wardrobe Coordinator: Marion McDowell
Stage Manager(s)/Prop coordinator(s): Margaret P. Bean & Zach T. Brown