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‘Too Heavy for Your Pocket’ at the Alliance Theatre

2017 February 26
by Susan Asher

Although today is the last day to see “Too Heavy for Your Pocket,” the winner of the 2017 Alliance/Kendeda National graduate Playwriting Competition, you should go if you can. The play is wonderful and the acting and singing are fine.

The four-character play revolves around the lives of four young adult black actors who live in Nashville during the early 1960s, when Jim Crow laws were still in force. Sally (Markita Prescott) and Evelyn (Eboni Flowers) are best friends, as are their respective spouses Tony (Rob Demery) and Bowzie (Stephen Ruffin). Bowzie has received a college scholarship to a private black university, Fisk University, for his intellectual abilities, but while he’s there he gets involved in the Civil Rights movement and joins the Freedom Riders, a bus ride of both blacks and whites headed for New Orleans to peaceably assemble for equal rights. Scenes flip back and forth between Bowzie—whose bus gets stopped in Jacksonville where he is imprisoned and abused by police—and drama that occurs among Tony, Evelyn and Sally.

We peer into Sally and Tony’s rental home, where they are still cooking on a 20-year-old oven, and into the handsome couple’s trials and tribulations of marriage. There’s nothing in the play that whops you over the head and preaches about Civil Rights. “Too Heavy for Your Pocket” is the story of fortitude and the belief that you can never give up no matter how heavy your load.

The playwright, Jiréh Breon Holder, holds an M.F.A. in playwriting from Yale and is working at Emory University on a playwright fellowship. He wrote “Too Heavy for Your Pocket” as a tribute to his mother and grandmother and to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Directed by Margot Bordelon, “Too Heavy for Your Pocket” runs through Feb. 26 on the Hertz Stage at the Alliance Theatre.

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