By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media
What happens when a family member addicted to drugs comes knocking on your door asking for help and bringing their kid along with them saying they just need a place to stay for awhile? What does it do to you and your relationships in your own home when the collateral damage they created by their destructive choices impacts not only their immediate family but those family members who seek to help them. Do we empower them or enable them and at what cost?
Last Night and the Night Before is about that and so much more.
Rachel and Nadima are in a loving same sex relationship very supportive and understanding of one another. They live a comfortable lifestyle in a Brooklyn, New York apartment. Monique, Rachel’s sister lives down south in Georgia. She is married to Reggie, a hard working decent man. Together they have a daughter, 10 year old Sam.
Samantha is full of anxiety, something traumatic has happened but she does her best to cope with it and keep its secret. We meet her mother Monique when Sam is still in her womb. Under a full moon she promises to love Sam with all her heart and soul. Her husband Reggie also loves his daughter to death and she him. She is bonded much closer to her father and is happier when she is with him. She is approaching puberty and her father tries to prepare her for the changes to come.
Her mother, Monique has a heroin addiction that is destroying the well being of her family. The consequences of that addiction cause her to flee north to New York taking her daughter and leaving her husband behind, at least for the time being. She was supposed to seek treatment in Tennessee but she passed that opportunity right by continuing north.
When she comes knocking on her sister’s door everyone’s life is about to change forever. The mystery that follows is as engaging as it is tense. It seems that every minute of this two hour production is filled with drama although there are some hilarious moments. The play centers around Sam, played by nine year old Zaria Kelly who has been acting on stage since she was four. The rest of cast is also first rate with credentials to match. Sam is at the mercy of the adults in the room who should be caring for her but are having isues keeping their own lives in order.
The fact that the cast is made up of all black actors does not alter the fact that these types of situations happen to families regardless of color or class.
In the program for this production, playwright Donnetta Lavinia Grays refers to the play as a “black experience” a story about a black family that is different from other black families. But I didn’t see it that way. To me this story is one of the human experience, one that resonates among all families dealing with loved ones in crisis or in need. Families come from all types of cultures, backgrounds and experiences. This play shows we all have one thing in common, family and love of family even in difficult times. With today’s opioid crisis and young adults living with parents this play brings home the difficulties of being obliged to help family at most any cost.
The challenge becomes at what point does that love bend, break or shatter altogether and what becomes of the fallout?
At the opening night world premiere Jan 25th the play received an immediate and resounding standing ovation with the air filled with accolades for the production and its performers. Last Night and the Night Before is the first play to be selected from the DCPA Colorado New Play Summit in 2017 by one Artistic Director and put on the mainstage season by another. (see video clip below) In announcing the pick Artistic Director Chris Coleman called the play “A beautiful and a deeply human story”.
Last Night and the Night Before plays the Ricketson Theatre at the Denver Center for the performing Arts through February 24th. For tickets visit: DenverCenter.org.