February 21, 2024

By Constance Garcia-Barrio

Grief, adolescence, dangerous politics, and an interracial marriage roil the Crump household in “Crumbs from the Desk of Pleasure”, which opened November 15 on the Lantern Theater Firm in Heart Metropolis. The writer, prolific African American playwright Lynn Nottage, whose work typically facilities on Black working-class folks, stays the one girl to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice.

The solid consists of Walter DeShields as Godfrey Crump, a lean good-looking baker in his mid-to-late 30s; Morgan Charece Corridor as his daughter Ernestine, 17; Monet Debose as his daughter Ermina; Barrymore Award winner Brett Ashley Robinson as his sister-in-law Lily, and Barrymore Award winner Hillary Parker as Gerte Schulte, his second spouse. Bianca LaVerne Jones directs the manufacturing.

The story takes place within the fall of 1950 in Brooklyn, the place Godfrey has moved along with his daughters after leaving Pensacola, Florida, following the latest loss of life of his spouse, Sandra. Godfrey desires to be close to spiritual chief Father Divine – a.ok.a. Reverend Main Jealous Divine (1877?-1965) – an precise public determine who gained prominence, partially, by offering low cost, nutritious meals in Harlem throughout the Melancholy.

Morgan Charéce Corridor as Ernestine Crump and Brett Ashley Robinson as Lily Ann Inexperienced in Lantern Theater Firm’s manufacturing of Crumbs from the Desk of Pleasure by Lynn Nottage, directed by Bianca LaVerne Jones, on stage now by way of December 10, 2023. PHOTO BY MARK GARVIN

Godfrey, unmoored after his spouse’s loss of life, seeks solutions about life’s dilemmas from Father Divine. However when Godfrey reaches Brooklyn, he learns that Father Divine has moved to Philadelphia. (Father Divine purchased the posh condominium constructing at Broad St. and Fairmount Avenue, renaming it the Divine Lorraine Lodge, the primary posh lodge on this metropolis to be totally built-in).

Within the play, Godfrey adheres to Father Divine’s precepts of onerous work, celibacy, little music, and no alcohol. Ernestine and Ermina chafe on the strictures. “Daddy desires us to put on the Vs,” they are saying, “Advantage, Victory, and Virginity.” 

“Sure certainly. Peace and blessings,” Godfrey responds.

The stress rachets up after Lily, sister of the deceased Sandra, reveals up on the door of the Crumps’ dreary basement condominium. She strikes in as a result of she has vowed to look at over Ernestine and Ermina. 

“I promised Nana [the girls’ grandmother] I’d take care of these gals for her,” Lily says. “She don’t assume it’s correct {that a} man be dwelling alone along with his daughters as soon as they sprung bosom.”

Walter DeShields as Godfrey Crump and Morgan Charéce Corridor as Ernestine Crump in Lantern Theater Firm’s manufacturing of Crumbs from the Desk of Pleasure by Lynn Nottage, directed by Bianca LaVerne Jones, on stage now by way of December 10, 2023. PHOTO BY MARK GARVIN.

Lily’s ingesting, cussing, sharp dressing, and horny demeanor fascinate Ernestine and Ermina, however conflict with Father Divine’s beliefs. Lily’s phrases additionally counsel that she and Godfrey might have had an intimate relationship previously. 

The actors convey feelings with completely different levels of success. DeShields is convincing in displaying Godfrey’s simultaneous attraction to and disapproval of Lily. Godfrey’s rage and grief additionally come throughout.

Robinson as Lily portrays a full palette of feelings, from heat towards her nieces to sorrow over her sister’s loss of life. Every thing from physique language to the trace of an accent make this character partaking. Lily’s arrival quickens the tempo of the primary half, which appears gradual at occasions.  

The second half strikes briskly when Godfrey marries and brings residence Gerte, a German immigrant girl he meets on a subway automotive. Gerte arouses the animosity of Lily, Ernestine, and Ermina.

“If I had me twenty {dollars}, I’d get Randall’s cousin, who was in jail to interrupt you-know-who’s kneecaps,” Ermina says of Gerte.

One empathizes with Gerte’s loneliness and steep studying curve in Hillary Parker’s portrayal of this character. 

“After I arrived in America, I believed all coloured folks both performed jazz or had been laborers,” Gerte says. However, Parker brings glowing moments to her scenes. At one level, she delivers a convincing imitation of German and American actress and singer Marlene Dietrich.

Monet Debose as Ermina Crump, Hillary Parker as Gerte Schulte, and Morgan Charéce Corridor as Ernestine Crump in Lantern Theater Firm’s manufacturing of Crumbs from the Desk of Pleasure by Lynn Nottage, directed by Bianca LaVerne Jones, on stage now by way of December 10, 2023. PHOTO BY MARK GARVIN.

The play has lean dialogue, sharply drawn characters, and humor. Philadelphians of a sure age will acknowledge the Fifties range, kitchen canisters, and big radio on the set. Likewise, the tunes and radio broadcasts stir post-war reminiscences. Nottage additionally consists of the political upheavals of the period, with allusions to U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957), remembered for blacklisting folks whom he thought of communists.

Morgan Charece Corridor attracts on Philly reminiscences in portraying Ernestine.

“I used to be born at Temple College Hospital, and I lived in Logan,” Corridor mentioned. “After I was 10, my mother and father divorced.” 

Afterwards, Corridor resided along with her mom within the South a lot of the time as she grew up. 

“I drew on the sensation of being uprooted since Ernestine strikes North along with her household after her mom dies,” Corridor says. 

Corridor factors out that “Crumbs from the Desk of Pleasure” is a reminiscence play. Ernestine is between 42 to 45 years outdated as she seems again on what occurred within the autumn when she was 17.

“The play is about how folks course of grief,” mentioned Corridor, who teaches theatre at center colleges and excessive colleges, together with Duke Ellington College of the Arts, and at Howard College. “The play has a message of hope — it doesn’t matter what you undergo, you may return, take a look at it, and be taught from it. In case you’ve ever skilled grief, in case you’ve been uprooted or needed to combine new folks into your loved ones and set boundaries with folks you like, you’ll see it on this play. It’s a scrumptious meal.”

“Crumbs from the Desk of Pleasure” runs by way of December 10 at St. Stephen’s Theater, situated at 10 & Ludlow Streets. For tickets, contact the field workplace at: (215) 829-0395.