The Gospel of Lovingkindness

By Marcus Gardley

victory gardens theatre
The Gospel of Lovingkindness

Directed by Chay Yew

At Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, Chicago

The healing process for  gun violence misses the obvious

Watching Marcus Gardley’s The Gospel of Lovingkindness, I got the feeling that I was in church as the 90 minute one act drama contained so much preaching about how the African-American community needs to come together to stop the killing of young men. This show dramatized two extremes: a mother, Mary (Cheryl Lynn Bruce), takes activist actions after her son, Emmanuel (Tosin Morohunfola), a classical singer and  intelligent,  motivated student is gunner down on the street simply to get his expensive Air Jordan sneakers. Trying to organize a “lovingkindness” initiative in the Black Community is her way of grieving.

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The play starts with a series of monologues about each family, Mary’s nerdy, success oriented son; Martha’s frustrated son, Noel (both played by Tosin Morohunfola), who aspires to be a basketball star but possesses only “average” athletic skills. Ernest Perry, Jr plays many father figures who interact with the two boys and their mothers.

We are shocked when Emmanuel is shot dead in a robbery to steal his new Nike Air Jordon gym shoes. His dream of being a classical opera star are dashed by a single gunshot.

We learn about Noel, the frustrated boy who tries to ‘do the right thing’ after having a child by getting a job at Walmart but his low pay leads to frustration that leads to him becoming a  gangster. His initiation into the world of organized crime is to take a gun and do a robbery. Emmanuel walking down the street becomes the target as Noel is told to use the gun to rob the boy for his Air Jordan’s. This action leads to him firing one shot into Emmanuel’s head. Noel did get the gym shoes.

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While these actions are quite movingly dramatized, playwright Gardley’s resolution is amazing. He has Mary becoming an activist to try to get the community together to find a way to stop all the killing through lovingkindness actions. While some of the speeches about how to make things better, Gardley opts for  distinctly religious tone in order to heal the community wounds.

He fails to talk about several things that must happen if the killing is to stop. First, he has Martha, the mother of the shooter, only demand that her son get rid of the gym shoes. She doesn’t tell him to surrender to the police for murdering another person. Gardley doesn’t have her do anything.  Neither does Noel takes responsibility for his actions saying ” the gun just when off.” If the community is to heal, mothers must raise their children with stronger morals and mothers must stop concealing murders by their children. They must also discard the guns when they find them in their children’s room. Personal and family responsibility here is ignored.

Secondly, Gardley never mentions the need to get rid of the guns since shooting someone only takes a small squeeze on a trigger.

Lastly, Gardley uses two basically good boys to dramatize gun violence. He never demonstrates the sociopath gang members who easily and without a conscious kill one another over gang turf and drug sales. That is how most of the killing occurs. I’ doubt that ‘lovingkindness’ without destroying gangs and ridding the neighborhood of guns will do much to stop the killing.

The Gospel of Lovingkindness is a religious oriented wish-fulfilling tale that puts faith ahead of sound problem solving. It is a nicely written work that is merely a ‘fell-good’ show that doesn’t really resolve anything. Terrific performances, particularly by Jacqueline Williams and Cheryl Lynn Bruce, make the show worthy. If only Gardley made a more substantial stand by offering practical solutions to gun violence.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: March 7, 2014

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout The Gospel of Lovingkindness page at theatreinchicago.com

At Victory Gardens Theatre, 2433 N. lincoln, Chicago, Il call 773-871-3000, www.victorygardens.org, tickets $20 – $60, Tuedsays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3pm, matinees on Saturdays at 4 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through march 30, 2014

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