Emotional, Powerful “Bourbon at the Border”
By Sherri Ogden Wellington
This reviewer hasn’t seen anything this powerful in a very long time. I went to this play thinking that I could relate to it by what I had read about it, that it is a couple’s heroic fight for racial justice and freedom which still haunts them. That they are attempting to make sense of their lives while looking for hope in their future. Yes, it is about that but the story behind it is so gripping and touching that it literally brought me to tears.
The story, simply put, is about May (Torie Wiggins) and Charlie (Dathan Hooper) who were Howard University students in 1964 when they went to Mississippi to get black folks registered to vote. On one hot night they were kissing when a Sheriff and his two deputies arrested and horrifically assaulted and brutalized them. May ended up sterile and Charlie insane. For years, he was in and out of mental institutions but throughout it all they remained in love. The story is about redemption in the only way Charlie knows how.
Rosa (Kyndra Dyanne Jefferies), a neighbor and good friend of May’s, is her foil. Her childish sense of humor, unpretentious manner along with her facial expressions frequently injects humor into the play. Tyrone (James Christian, Jr) is Rosa’s boyfriend and is the character most people can relate to because he is down to earth. He is impatient, likes his bourbon and his pretty girlfriend. He is trusting but when it is broken, he doesn’t take it well. The performance of Dathan Hooper as Charlie Thompson and Tori Wiggens as May takes the play to an entirely different level than is often seen in local theatres.
Tori Wiggins is a veteran actor and it shows. Her facial expressions, mannerisms and voice radiate truth and love. You want to be her friend. Dathan Hooper’s performance was riveting. From the beginning you know that he is broken but at the end, he reaches into your heart and pulls it out.
The playwright is Pearl Cleage who is known for her ability to creatively bring to light the issues of racism and sexism. This play is one of her magnificent achievements. Director Piper N. Davis makes this play as dramatic as it was meant to be. The Falcon Theatre, where it is performing, is an incredibly intimate setting where the audience of no more than 100 can feel the emotions emoting from the actors. Ted J. Weil literally sets the stage by being on the Scenic/Lighting Design, Sound Design (along director Davis). Tara L. Williams is also the Production Coordinator, Costume Design and Props Design. The costumes are so much fun. The different styles for each of the characters add to their personalities. The set design is simple but so perfect for the late 1990s.
Although the play is over two hours, you don’t notice. It addresses race, love, hate, poverty, family, mental illness, forgiveness, and hope as well as looking at the different paths people take when having to deal with horrific experiences. Charlie’s character speaks of “they” and how they tried to separate his head from his heart and soul. He states to May, “The only way they win is to make me too crazy to be with you.” The ending is gripping and surprising. This play is one that you will not forget.
Bourbon at the Border is a must see. Visit https://falcontheater.net/ to get tickets, which are extremely affordable for an especially exceptional play. There are 8:00 pm shows on 8/6/22, 8/12/22, & 8/13/22 and 2:00 pm on 8/7/22 & 8/14/22.