Category Archives: My Views and Reviews

Reviews of my work or reviews that I’ve done on some else’s work.

Review: TWO TRAINS RUNNING (Goodman Theatre)


Two Trains Running!! Wow! I wish I could have attended this production!! I love all things August Wilson. His themes, settings, stories and those characters who become  friends and neighbors for that short time on the stage! Most are set in Pittsburgh, though it could be any urban setting-Cleveland, Houston, LA, New York, Memphis or Chicago…the soul of his works and the voices ring true.

August Wilson did what no other playwright had done. He wrote ten plays in ten year cycles that took place in the same setting (Pittsburgh) and used the same people/neighborhood residents.

In historical order:

1904 – Gem of the Ocean

1911 – Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

1927 – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

1936 – The Piano Lesson

1948 – Seven Guitars

1957 – Fences

1969 – Two Trains Running

1977 – Jitney

1985 – King Hedley II

1997 – Radio Golf


I think you’ll enjoy NewCity Stage’s review of the Goodman Theatre’s current production of Wilson’s ‘Two Trains Running':

The Mountaintop : A Review



Mountaintop Marc Pouhe and Carla Nickerson

I will preface this by saying that I viewed the epic movie, SELMA! and the stirring play, The Mountaintop, within twenty-four hours of each other. While I was fairly young and living in the north when these events took place, I do have memories of dinner table conversations, front porch discussions, back porch arguments about the pros and cons of stirring up white folks and it being the perfect time to demand equality for our race and not so impartial news reports about both.

I remember the pride and reverence that everyone, well, everyone in my world, had in regard to Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember hearing his comforting voice, the hope in the call and response of the Negro people, as we were known then as he issued his peaceful giant’s call to action. A call to dignity…calls to equality…a call to justice…a call to destiny.

However, with all of the love, admiration and pride many of us had and have for Martin Luther King, Jr., we forget that he was human, a man subject to the same failings, faults and fears that all men and women experience.

It is here where The Mountaintop experience really begins, not with the often quoted “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech rendered hours before at the Mason Temple for the sanitation workers but here- at the Lorraine Hotel, 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis TN on a stormy Wednesday night, April 3, 1968.

The opening claps of thunder as King enters his hotel room, tired and disappointed; put the audience on notice that this is not going to be a usual night.

The Mountaintop pict Carla and Marc

While Marc Pouhe’s physical appearance doesn’t match that of Dr. King, his mannerisms make the connection. Searching for listening devices that have become part of the décor wherever he goes, pacing while waiting on trusted friend, Ralph Abernathy to bring him his Pall Mall cigarettes. He calls the service for a cup of coffee and is informed room service has stopped for the night but for him they will make an exception. Enters the spirited, sassy, at times irreverent maid, Camae (portrayed by Carla Nickerson) with a vocabulary totally unlike that of the Church of God in Christ audience he just left.

At first she appears to be in awe if not a little intimidated by Dr. King but that soon passes as a connection develops between them that dissolves status, titles or stature. Her funny nature blends with his sometimes open and sometimes guarded demeanor as the increasing bursts of thunder visibly affect him.

The Mountaintop Carla Nickerson and Marc Pouhe

We see a side of Martin Luther King, Jr. that the public was seldom if ever privy to. Yes, there are glimpses of his ‘appreciation of women’ but what we see that is more important is his vulnerability.

I am limited as to how much I can reveal without ‘spoiling’ it for others but I will say that their conversation covers the major areas of human opinions including politics, violence versus non-violence, (Camae has a unique take on how Dr. King could approach the race issue) to touching on his interaction with his wife and children.

The play has a few unexpected twists and for some may be a little over the top in certain areas but for all it is or isn’t, we get a little insight at what it’s like when a god isn’t on the pedestal.

While some say that Ms. Hall has blurred the lines between the temporal and the eternal, I think it was her destination all along. It’s a journey we all have to make, where what we believe is real meets what we know is truth.

Join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Marc Pouhe’) and Camae (Carla Nickerson) at the Austin Playhouse weekends until January 25th in Katori Hall’s dramatic and to some controversial play, The Mountaintop, directed by Don Toner, Artistic Director, Austin Playhouse.

#mlk, #themountaintop, #Selma, #marcpouche, #carlanickerson, #dontoner, #austinplayhouse, #theatre, @jeanettewhill,  #blacktheatre, #blackpower, #camae, #ujimamagazine, #history



Jeanette Hill Productions
(JWHill Productions)
The Amen Circle

The Best Lesson




The Best Lesson by Jeanette Hill
Ursula Robinson

Directed by Chris Scott
Produced by JW Hill Productions
Atlanta Black Theatre Festival
Atlanta, GA October 11, 2014

“What do you do when you are too old to be young, but you are too young to be old?” This is the question at the crux of the play, The Best Lesson, written by Jeanette W. Hill and presented at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival in Atlanta on October 11, 2014.  What does an older mature woman (Donna) do when she loses her husband (Jake) to a young and vibrant woman (Brelyn) who not only broke up her marriage, but is now pregnant? Add to the mix that Jake has been friendly with Donna since the divorce and wants to cut off their sexual romps now that he is about to be a father again. It is this rip in her life that causes Donna to go into a midlife crisis that tears her family apart and ultimately places her child in the position to be raped.

In her frustration to find a way to deal wither new identity as a woman alone with a child, Donna begins to have physical relations with men all over town. At the same time, she tries to fulfill all of her roles as a mother, a youth pastor and as a friend, but that comes to a crashing halt when her secret life shows up at her front door. She makes that final decision to redefine herself, just when she loses everything. It is only after she picks herself up off the ground and testifies about the rape of her daughter that she begins to find the new Donna that is emerging.

Kimberly Ginyard-Mitchell’s believable and honest portrayal of Donna, as the typical newly single mother, made her a woman with whom the audience could connect.  Jake, played by Theo White, was lovable and his demeanor contradicted his actions, which caused the audience to be thoroughly shocked at his behavior. The vibrant energy on the stage definitely came from Charmayne, played by Nina J., who created a lovable and mature child that captured the audience’s attention. The one character that stood out and made the audience gasp, however, was Frank, played by Jae Ellis. Frank was a pedophile who only spent a brief moment on stage, but still had a  powerful impact. Ellis did a great job of creating a convincing character.

With The Best Lesson, Hill uses contradictions to illustrate her points and to bring the story into our hearts. For example, Donna admonishes her daughter to be a good girl, but is herself behaving in a bad way. Jake is a great father, but a lousy husband. Donna’s best friend is a woman who is very sexually active, while Donna is more modest—that is, until she becomes the old lady in the club looking for answers in the eyes of every man that she sees. The use of these contrasts helps us to see just how far this family has been driven into chaos.

In an audience made up of middle aged women and men, this story hit home for several reasons. First, it was an opportunity for men to see themselves through the eyes of the women that surround them. The man who wanders away from home and still wants to maintain peace can see that there is a high price to pay for it, when he has not fulfilled his end of the bargain. Second, women could identify with being in a place in life where you are forced to deal with another person’s choices and still try to live a fulfilling life. This story touched the heart of what  eats away at family unit; Identity. It is hard to define yourself when your life changes so drastically that you do not know who you are anymore.

Playwright Hill is great at speaking to the family and to the situations that can cause us to lose ourselves. She is a master at appealing to the heart of her audience and giving them a story that seems so simple, but has such complex consequences and underlying themes. The Best Lesson demonstrates that the axis upon which our lives swings is always dependent upon our choices. And the lesson is that your identity is always connected to who you believe yourself to be at any given moment of time.

Ursula Robinson
Ursula O. Robinson Productions
Drama Program Coordinator, South Carolina State University