You finding a new road don’t change anything that’s been. – Grams.
The story is based on the life of Tray Franklin, a Kingsborough Community College student and talented young boxer, gunned down by senseless violence in 2012.
For a theater in Southeast DC, I think many local community residents will be able to relate to Tray, the main character in Theater Alliance’s powerful ‘brownsville song (b-side for tray).’ Whether they see parts of Tray and other characters in themselves, a loved one, or just take a moment to think about the many black youths losing their lives to gun violence daily in communities’ across the US, the play is sure to resonate on many levels with attendees.
The play begins with a monologue from Lena, Tray’s grandmother, as she goes through her own stages of grief – Tray being in the wrong place at the wrong time, coming from a household of love. He wasn’t into gangs, nor violence, nor guns. Tray was… on his way to college… having normal struggles writing a scholarship application. A loving brother. A hip hop lover.
Tray’s presence is felt in the characters’ lines and throughout the scenes, which make good use of flashbacks to unpeel the many layers of Tray’s life and relationships, while also dealing with the gripping reality of what’s happening.
A few of the performance’s parts seem slightly disjointed with some scenes feeling as though they went on too long. Particularly, the flashback style was challenging to follow/understand at first. I’m curious to see such a poignant play done another way. Still this one is worthy of support. The perfect mix of realism, love, hip hop, tragedy and overall triumph… make for good theater.
The clear standout performance is owned to Merrell (Regina Aquino) and Grams Lena (Lolita Marie – although she looks a bit young to be the grandmother). The good mix of hip hop and humor and good stage decision, aided the story relevance and message.
Overall: The redemptive ‘brownsville song (b-side for tray)‘ is a story of change and pen grabbing… urging us to write and finish our own story in our own way.