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Saturday, May 6, 2017


(Kenneth Brown Jr who plays Calvin Chaisson)

Fine performance from Kenneth Brown Jr in the thought-provoking drama. (Review by Caroline Smart)

We Live Here, by the award-winning American playwright, Harold Ellis Clark, is presented by The International Arts Foundation Inc. of New Orleans in the United States, in association with the Playhouse Company. Directed and designed by John Grimsley, it marks an ongoing sister-city cultural exchange between New Orleans and Durban, which aims to serve as a bridge in communication and understanding between the two cities.

The production comes highly acclaimed having won the Playhouse on the Square’s New Works @ The Works Playwrighting Competition.

Calvin and Francine Chaisson are a married black couple – she is heavily pregnant – who have moved from New Orleans to a new home in a white neighbourhood. While Francine is happy in her new home, Calvin doesn’t share her views and this isn’t helped when their lawn is defaced and a brick is thrown through one of their windows. Calvin catches the perpetrator who turns out to be a young white boy named Alex Rodrigue who claims he had nothing to do with the damage to the lawn.

The police are called and the Sheriff’s deputy arrives. He eventually releases the boy to Richard and Barbara Rodrigue (his grandparents) under stern reprimand and promises the Chaissons that he will find those responsible for the damage.

The media gets hold of the story and so do religious representatives. One of these is the fiery Reverend Thomas Todd, a civil rights leader and activist who is known for deliberately attracting publicity. His idea is to hold a march to protest against the community feelings that led to the attack on the Chaissons. With the help of Calvin’s extensive stock of beer, he eventually opens up on memories of his own.

There are conversations between Francine and Barbara as well as between Richard and Calvin (again helped along by some beer!). Then it is the Sheriff’s Deputy’s turn to reveal painful information.

There is much focus on the problems of parenthood. Also that everything starts in the home. As Calvin says: “If we can take care of everything that is going on in here we can take care of pretty much everything.” However, the main message is the vital importance of communication between races and cultures.

The simple but very effective set constructed by Greg King carries out the black/white theme. There is a white framework depicting a living room with table and chairs, a door and a staircase. The scenes are links with a cacophony of discordant music, again reflecting the tension within the community.

Ernest D Kelly, President and Chairman of IAF explains that “In spreading its message, We Live Here serves with unswerving integrity as an instrument of social cohesion that reaches beyond the confines of theatrical entertainment.”  This message will hopefully be appreciated by adult audiences as well as the learners in the school audiences.

We Live Here features a fine performance from Kenneth Brown Jr as Calvin Chaisson. He is ably supported by Constance Thompson (Francine); Alfred Aubry (Rev Todd); Matt Borel (Richard Rodrigue); Sharon Smetherman (Barbara Rodrigue), Kevin Hubble (Sheriff’s Deputy) and Oliver Grimsley (Alex Rodrigue).

There are two more performances in the Playhouse Drama – tonight (May 6) at 19h30 and tomorrow (May 7) at 14h00. Booking is at Computicket or tickets are available at the door. – Caroline Smart