Human interaction analyzed in “Wilderness”
This weekend marks the second and final week “Wine in the Wilderness” will run in the African Community Theater in Oscar Ritchie Hall. Even though “Wilderness” was written in 1969, a lot of the issues covered in the play are still relevant today.
Quick judgment, perceptions of black women and the N-word are all topics covered and analyzed in the production. During one point, the characters look up the word “nigger” in the dictionary and are surprised by what they find. Brittany Brown, who plays Cynthia, says she learned one huge lesson from being in the play.
“Just because you went to college doesn’t mean you know everything,” she said.
The show takes place in Harlem in 1964. We open with Bill, a struggling, afroed artist, who is tenaciously working on a painting amidst a riot. His friend Old Timer shows up with a bag of loot he just recovered from the streets. The interaction between the two reveals that Bill is upset with the state of black people, and his art is a reflection of that. Bill just got a phone call from his friend Sonny Man, who said he and his wife Cynthia were in a bar and found the perfect model for the final painting of Bill’s three-part series on black womanhood. The woman in this picture is supposed to represent the black woman at her lowest, most horrible point. It will display “what society has made of her.”
When Sonny and Cynthia show up, they bring in a woman with a showing slip and a ratty wig. Her name is Tommy, and she is under the impression that Sonny and his wife are setting her up on a date with an artist. She is unsettled when she finds out that the artist wants to paint her, and complications arise as feelings are developed between the two. Then, Bill’s true intentions are revealed, and Tommy shows that she’s not quite what she seems.
“Tommy is someone who is underestimated,” Aungelique Scott, who plays Tommy, said. “But the beauty of Tommy is that she is not as ignorant as she looks.”
At last Sunday’s show, Scott kept the crowd intrigued with her portrayal of a sweet, good-intentioned woman in a bad position. She effortlessly slipped between a hospitable southerner and a woman with a bite as hard as a wrathful pit bull. The distinctive and unwavering twang in her voice was one of the most notable aspects of her performance.
“It’s something that kind of came through as I went through rehearsal,” Scott said. “I listened to everyone else’s dialect, and I knew that I had to be under what they were doing.”
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is a theme you’ve heard before. But it’s a timeless theme nonetheless. It’s interesting to see how things pan out when before Bill even met Tommy, he thought he could sum her up in one word, “nothing.” Or with words like “rude, crass, horrible, pitiful” and “dumb.” But he can’t because she wouldn’t allow it. And she ends up being the woman of his dreams.
Show times are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $7 for students and seniors and $10 for general admission.
Story and photos by Dwayne Yates