Three Ways Home

Just as members of Congress have no trouble sending other people's children off to war (one representative and one senator each have a son who served in Iraq), so, too, do they have no trouble designing social programs to deal with poverty. Unfortunately, again, their judgment in dealing with poverty is as misguided as their trust in the ruling junta's intentions with oil-rich nations that resist U.S. control.

In Shadow Theatre Company's current production of Casey Kurtti's Three Ways Home we experience a close-up look at their specially-crafted Catch-22 social system that is intentionally designed to destroy the cultural fabric of poor American families, particulary if they are black or brown.

In an effort to shore up the safety net that has been debilitated by the redirection of funds that now line the pockets of Dick Cheney and his friends at Halliburton and other defense and energy contrators, the city of New York has enlisted the aid of volunteer social workers, such as Sharon Conway.

Sharon is a successful multimedia designer who gets involved with social services for many of the right ideological reasons, and quickly finds herself pushed to her emotional and rational limits. She is assigned to help Dawn Towers, a single parent African-American (whose husband has run off) and Dawn's 16 year-old son (who is lost in the fantasy world of X-Man and a comic book universe that diffuses the pain of his abject poverty and his missing father).

Photo of (L to R) Adrienne Martin-Fullwood (Dawn Towers), Quatis Tarkington (Frankie Powers), and Hilary Blair (Sharon Conway)
(L to R) Adrienne Martin-Fullwood (Dawn
Towers), Quatis Tarkington (Frankie Powers),
and Hilary Blair (Sharon Conway)
Photo by Jennie MacDonald
Hilary Blair plays Sharon as a high-strung, Laura Ashley-clad yuppie whose button-down world of day-timers, power-lunches, and cultural enrichment is challenged by Dawn's predicament of child-care, welfare work programs, and the drug and sex criminals that lurk in the 'hood, laying in wait for her son.

Adrienne Martin-Fullwood's Dawn is outspoken and demanding, a Mother Courage for Harlem, fending off social services, the police, and Con Ed, caught between anger and compassion toward her wayward son. Martin-Fullwood pulls off the remarkable feat of creating a character that at first alienates us with her tactless, accusatory behavior, then gradually wins us back as her character evolves.

Quatis Tarkington is the swift-kicking, super-hero-in-his-own-mind Frankie Towers, who provides his own sound effects as accompaniment to his martial arts movements. Tarkington captures both the hyperbole and delusions of youth, while generating an impressive series of self-defense moves.

Director Jeffrey Nickelson efficiently uses Michael R. Duran's evocative urban set design. There are, however a couple of noticeable gaps in character development that leave us unprepared for what follows, namely Sharon's court testimony and Frankie's final, desperate gambit.

Rex Tangle's end-to-end sound design effectively amplifies the drama's ever-changing moods, but at times overwhelms the spoken word, and needs to be adjusted to fit the needs of the characters, and not vice versa.

Shadow Theatre Company's production of Three Ways Home runs through September 25th. 303-837-9355.

Bob Bows


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