Photo credit: Gabriella Nissen
By Beautifully Said Team
Is Houston the next Hollywood? This question gets brought up more and more as compelling theatre and movie’s continue to make its presence in the Bayou city. The latest production to grab audiences attention is JESUS HOPPED THE ‘A’ TRAIN which debuted September 8th. Presented by 4th Wall Theatre Company and featuring Houston resident, Joseph “Joe P” Palmore the play is a must see for any theatre patron. The setting was an intimate venue located at Spring Street Studios near downtown Houston. The play was directed Kim Tobin-Lehl—Co-founder and Co-Artistic director of 4th Wall Theatre Company.
Palmore delivered an award worthy performance that left the audience captivated. The character he portrays is an inmate named Lucius, a notoriously vicious serial killer housed in New York’s infamous Riker’s Island correctional facility. There he awaits extradition to Florida to face death by execution for murdering eight people. He encounters the two prison guards D’Amico played by Orlando Arriaga and Valdez played by Santry Rush. Both guards have similar job statuses, but they differ in demeanor. D’Amico is more partial to Lucius even down to providing him with the Oreo cookies he requests. Valdez on the other hand, abuses his authority and bullies Lucius, especially when the conversation is about God. You learn by his behavior that Valdez is nothing more than a racist and atheist.
Lucius is seen working out in his jail cell or on the prison grounds (yard) throughout the play. It’s where he recites bible scriptures with the proclamation that he found God despite his dark and evil past. Palmore’s brilliant performance as the outspoken inmate had audiences pondering on good, evil, forgiveness and religion. His performance was riveting! Down to the vulgar language
Another stand out performance was by Mateo Mpinduzi-Mott who portrays an inmate by the name of Angel. At the beginning of the play you see Angel struggling to pray from his jail cell. When he attempts to get a prayer through to God his voice is drowned out by other inmates who yell profanities at him as they tell him to shut up and go to sleep. You also see Angel interact with his lawyer, Mary Jane Hanrahan played by Christy Watkins. She loses the opportunity to represent him when he confessed he shot a well-known reverend. Mary Jane still manages to visit him in prison with a mission to help him beat his case. Unethically, she suggests he lie about the shooting so he will be acquitted by a reasonable doubt.
Although both men committed brutal acts against seemingly innocent individuals, they debate in the prison yard about the nature of their crimes. Angel appears openly conflicted about whether he believes there is a God. While Lucius professes through truth and aggression there is a God. The conversations between Lucius and Angel leave the audience conflicted as to who is good or “evil? As the two men try to justify their crimes, but following the story from an audience standpoint warrants the valid question. How do you justify evil intent?
The play has you to think about the justice system today and how it plagues the African American community, especially black men who ask, justice vs. mercy? JESUS HOPPED THE ‘A’ TRAIN shows we still live in a world more apt to justify the punishments Lucius and Angel should receive without facing how God deals with us in truth, goodness, mercy and grace. God is always merciful and kind.
Make plans to see Jesus Hopped The ‘A’ Train to decide for yourself.
JESUS HOPPED THE ‘A’ TRAIN runs from September 6th-29th at Studio 101 Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street 77007. Performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00pm. There will be a one-time Pay-What-You-Can performance on Monday, September 24th. For more ticket information visit 4thwalltheatreco.com or call 832-786-1849.
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