Spine: ‘Milk Like Sugar’ at Mosaic Theater Company
"America is but an expensive iPhone"
If you’ve got that, and its Pink with a sexy ringtone, then you’re in, as in the “in” crowd.
Now, all you need is a baby.
Or so seems the mind-set of Margie, Talisha, and Annie (Ghislaine “Gigi” Dwarka, Renee Elizabeth Wilson, and Kashayna Johnson), three young African-American high school sophomores on their way to motherhood and a whole lot more.
Mosaic Theater Company’s second offering of the 2016 season, Milk Like Sugar, is by up-and-coming playwright Kirsten Greenidge. The terrain might be well-traveled and sitcom funny but the footsteps are new and more painful than ever.
And along the way we see what world we adults have wrought.
Poet Gwendolyn Brook’s infinitely fabulous “The Pool Players: Seven at the Golden Shovel” captures that wild, male, and tragic adolescent sense of self, free from adult interference.
"We real cool. We Left school. We
Lurk late. We Strike Straight. We
Sing sin. We Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We Die soon."
Now, Kirsten Greenidge returns the favor, offering us the soul of three African American urban females living the dream yet never once realizing that they’ve been swallowed whole by a world not of their own making. That world is none other than the American myth that it’s possible to live the dream.
The story is straight from the evening headlines: “Girls Make Pregnancy Pact” but there are no detectives. In fact, there are no adults of any kind, save for one single Mom, Myrna (Deidra LaWan Starnes), whose bitterness over lost dreams renders her incapable of providing guidance. All the other adults referenced in the script are equally self-serving or abusive or both.
As a result, these “lost” girls rely more on the ethos of American commercialism for life coaching than on the wisdom of elders.
It’s Annie’s sweet sixteen. She and her two lifelong friends go after hours to the neighborhood tattoo parlor. The local artist, Antwoine (Jeremy Keith Hunter), is ready to paint the image but Annie cannot decide what type of icon best represents her young adulthood. Margie and Talisha think rose, because it’s so original; but Annie thinks flame because it soon will engulf her.
Talk soon turns to Margie’s pregnancy. Soon it turns to the proposition that all three girls should have babies, not because they really want babies but because–you know, I don’t really know why these girls want babies.
Perhaps, it’s for solidarity’s sake: if one’s with child, then all three should be with child.
Regardless, the pact sets the virgin Annie, this play’s protagonist, on a quest for the father of her baby-to-be. Ironically, the more she pursues that dubious golden grail the more she questions the validity of the honor.
Her knight-in-shining-armor is Malik (Vaughn Ryan Midder), a young man with big dreams: he wants more than anything to leave this world of expensive iPhones and quick hook-ups behind, but Annie’s so void of anything save the yearning to be she doesn’t even understand the concept of a real relationship with real dreams.
And then we have the mysterious Keera (Tyasia Velines), the young Christian girl who’s always hungry, always evangelizing, and always hiding something.
If you’re looking for hope for these young women in Greenidge’s world, don’t look twice because you won’t find it. For their world has been hollowed out and filled with frothy Twinkie goo. It promises delight to the unthinking celebrity culture crowd, but it will never satisfy any of their cravings.
To be sure, under the direction of Jennifer L. Nelson, this company of actors acts their hearts out. We understand their desire; we can even feel for their hopes; but we also know that only the brightest will shine in this sky of painted neon.
For that’s the world we adults have wrought: a world without history, a world without the capacity for critical thought, a world without a legitimate struggle to believe in.
A world spinning fiercely on its axis, but going nowhere it hasn’t been before.
The only hope that we might find in this world of false promises to the young is the painful reality that change must come soon.