By Darlene Leal
Broken Nose Theatre’s “Kingdom” centers around an entirely-LGBTQ African-American family that is located in Florida, nearby the well-known magical kingdom Disney World.
It is set not too long after Florida legalized same sex marriage, which causes trouble in paradise for Arthur and Henry. The couple has been together for 50 years and have come to terms with their status as a union, or so they thought.
Arthur, played by Christopher McMorris, has his eyes on the fairy tale ending that is very expected of Disney movies. Unfortunately, for Arthur, this is not a Disney movie. He and his family deal with very real issues such as discrimination as a primarily gay and lesbian family, along with racism, machismo and alcoholism. Also, Henry, played by Watson Swift, does not “believe” in marriage between two men.
The play despite carrying heavy themes is still hilarious, mostly due to the outrageous Phaedra who is played by RjW Mays. She is outspoken, loud and proud. She is a dedicated member of the family and often a caregiver. She is easily the comedic relief when situations get too tough for the working-class family.
She too has her own issues. She is a “butch” lesbian dealing with her girlfriend’s homophobic ex-boyfriend and her own homophobic daughter. No one in the play has it easy, but it speaks to the reality of the African-American experience in a homophobic setting.
Michael Mejia-Beal plays Alexander, Arthur’s gay son. Alexander is not too fond of the infamous mouse. He works at Disney and finds it tiring to be around the manufactured “happy” setting. He is the hardest character to sympathize with, but he is also the one with the biggest devil to fight. He is a closeted lover and alcoholic.
The play is filled with the right amount of drama. The audience just wants to see these characters receive the happiness they all deserve, but the play goes through a rollercoaster of emotions, from highs to lows.
Things are well paced and they demonstrate the ability to build these characters and their relationships with one another very well within the two hours.
The setting is almost contradictory to the heaviness of the themes. While the play has its dark moments, the setting is symbolic of hope. The set is decorated in Disney merchandise, and between every scene break, music from the Disney classics fills the room. The set and atmosphere prepare the audience to enter the kingdom.
The family is very open and the setting is very welcoming. It sets up the audience to get comfortable in their seats and enjoy the show.
The play focuses on a marginalized and forgotten minority, African-American seniors who are gay. Arthur and Henry are really the heart of the play.
Kingdom runs through April 7 at The Den Theatre.
4 out of 5 Torches.