MILK LIKE SUGAR: INTROSPECTION AND RAW EMOTION
The newest play in the Mosaic Theater season line-up is Milk Like Sugar, by Kirsten Greenidge. Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Mosaic, I attended opening night. The play hit me in the gut– it’s a raw and frank story about poverty and race and about being a teenager and feeling invincible. It’s also a lot of fun to watch: Anyone who’s ever been sixteen and has felt the mood swings and the frustration of feeling like they know more than everyone else will find a little bit of themselves reflected in the production. Milk Like Sugar has been richly brought to our local stage by Mosaic Theater’s resident director, Jennifer L. Nelson. It runs an hour and fifty minutes with no intermission, so make sure you go to the bathroom: You don’t want to miss anything.
Milk Like Sugar delivers a powerful psychological charge that forces you to examine your own upbringing and any and all vicious cycles in which you may be engaging, then and now. I felt like the characters spoke to me in a poetic way, placing distant topics into a greater motif. America, land of opportunity, would eventually deliver good outcomes to those who sought them, right? Things happen if you will them with enough might.
And then, the election results came. I could not stop thinking about the fact that the despair in the play had somehow spilled out of the theater and was following us all. The play’s themes and its characters kept dancing and updating their status and posing for selfies while making duck faces in my head.
In the play, inspired by a story about a pregnancy pact that playwright Kirsten Greenidge read when she was expecting, we are introduced to some very young girls who are making some very big decisions based on very wrong information. The cast brings to life the script, letting the vernacular pop like chewing gum out of their lips. Talisha, Annie and Margie play off each other well and draw us in with their terrifying ideas about how easy it is to have and care for a baby. Antwoine in the tattoo parlor slowly makes us wish for tattoos that take over our entire bodies, until he lets us in on the danger of blurring the lines of art. Myrna, Annie’s mother, makes us seriously consider how underutilized office computers can be. The scenes with mother and daughter are heartrending and of such sadness, I needed to give my own mother a hug afterward.
Malik, the hero of the story, is played with so much sweetness and courage by Vaughn Ryan Midder that I was left wishing to know him personally and to tell him what a good soul he was– not sure if the character or the actor. He blurred the lines of art.
Keera, the outsider whose dreams of love and acceptance help bring about the emotional climax of the story, was played by Tyasia Velines with a delicate touch. She was at turns like a ballerina, dreaming of satin slippers and a heavenly kingdom, and suddenly like a sucker punch, full of raw emotion and nerve.
Throughout the play –which is captioned to bring in the Gallaudet audience– we are left wondering just how these girls will find their way if no one is there to guide them? If they could see their own words, writ large for the deaf and hard-of-hearing audience, would they react differently?