Cast 'strives' in play about black issues

by Mary L. Anglin

Brace yourselves—it's yet another play about young lovers kept apart.

It's also another one of those plays about a day when everything that can go wrong does. But more importantly, "On Striver's Row" is a play about black class issues.

The Van Strivens are a black family struggling to make it into Harlem's upper class. Like most families, they've sunk all their hopes and dreams into their offspring—their daughter Cobina (Leslie Miller).

Mother Dolly (Barbara Ann Walker) and Grandma (Essie Moore) are hoping Cobina's debutante party will secure her a wealthy fiancé and secure them a place in high society. But Cobina has other ideas, mostly about Chuck, a handsome young working class man (Jamal Gibran Sterling).

Add in a jealous friend and a sweepstakes-winning cook who wants to be introduced into society, and you have a recipe for (comic) disaster.

Perhaps it was just opening night jitters, but the cast was definitely off last Thursday. However, Leslie N. Gladden was a scream as bombshell diva Lily Livingston, and Esther Walton brought dignity as well as humor to her role as Ruby, the lucky cook.

I have to commend the cast and crew for making this effort to reach out to the Detroit community. And this effort has not gone unnoticed or unrewarded; I think there's a lesson here for the Wayne theatre department in the tremendous response to this play (the first weekend was almost completely sold out). Looking out over the audience, it was refreshing not to see the usual ocean of blue hair.

"On Striver's Row" runs through April 9 at the Studio Theatre, downstairs from the Hilberry at Cass and Hancock. Performances are at 8:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $7.00, or $5.00 for students, and are going fast so please call ahead. For tickets or more information, call (XXX) XXX-XXXX.

(Originally published in The South End, Apr. 1995)