From Sun To Sun

From Sun To Sun

From Sun To Sun
By Zora Neale Hurston
Scripted by N.Y. Nether and Thomas Wilson
Directed by Elizabeth Van Dyke
Starring Troy Brooks, A. C. Sanford, and David Tate
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL

A century ago there was a fad for studying anthropology in far off lands. While Cameroon and Papua New Guinea beckoned, the underfunded Zora Neale Hurston documents equally remote cultures in the work camps of Florida. Her stories of the people building railroads and cutting cane are relics of America, and here we see the hopes, dreams and frustrations behind “I’ve Been Working on The Railroad”. Sixteen year old Youngblood (Brooks) longs to see the big city. Tatum (Sanford) describes the fleshpots of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Apopka while showing him some practical tips on playing cards and shooting dice. Youngblood’s daddy Willie Lee (Tate) struggles to keep him on the straight and narrow road, knowing how easy to is to slide into an early lynching. Others want out as well, Belle (Edmarie Montes) and husband Nat (Harrison grant) debate the benefits of a city with good Negro schools vs. staying with work they have in relative safety and isolation.

Big concepts aside, “From Sun to Sun” crystallizes the 20th century black experience for the entertainment of outsiders. There are numerous highlights here – The Preacher (Matt Wenge) arrives to bring salvation and some righteous “amen’s” as well as collecting a few of the folk’s hard earned dollars. Tatum is the archetypical black hustler – proud and preening to his fellows, subservient to the white boss, and always looking for an angle even at the risk of getting shot. The women in the play are all strong and well balanced – Miss ‘Phelia (Pascha Weaver) runs the joke serving white lightening and the chance to blow off steam, and she belts the blues as well as the gospel with “Balling the jack” and “Bye and Bye”. The mysterious and pale Night Beauty (Brittany MacDonald) might be widely available, but ultimately she shows her heart of gold and makes a play for slow talking Sam (Donavan Carey). And the best sequence was the Step Dance track laying segment where the men set ties and tracks as if they were competing against another fraternity. I don’t think I’d let these guys hammer real spikes, but they sure did a nice job keeping the ties straight.

There’s a glow of a golden age about this show – times were bad and real options were few, but you feel a sense of community in this production. While undoubtedly an accurate social history, stories like this serve to create a mythological back story for today’s society. This isn’t just good for you, its fun as well.

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