By Paul Garber,
August 5, 2009
Black Angels over Tuskegee is a wonderfully written play about a group of men who must overcome forces -- both outer and inner -- as they struggle to become airmen and fight for their country despite the segregation that existed during World War II.
The six men -- two brothers from the South and four other men from varying backgrounds -- begin their story in a Utah office preparing to take the test that would determine if they can qualify to go to Tuskegee, Ala., to learn how to become fighter pilots.
"... Abe, is played by Thom Scott, who proves adept at both physical comedy as well as the more poignant parts of the play."
In World War II, more than 400 Tuskegee airmen eventually ended up serving overseas, becoming famous for escorting U.S. bombers and performing other missions as part of the U.S. Army Air Corps. The play mixes humor with deeply moving personal anecdotes about what the six had to endure as young black men in a country where the promise of freedom had eluded them.
The play was written and directed by Layon Gray, who portrays the younger of two brothers.
His older brother, Abe, is played by Thom Scott, who proves adept at both physical comedy as well as the more poignant parts of the play.
Derek Shaun also gives a tough performance as the no-nonsense member of the group who won't let the others' "foolishness" get in the way of his goal to become an airman. Shaun's character provides a foil for the rest of the group as they try to balance their free-wheeling personalities with the physical and mental challenges of achieving success.
Along the way, there is an interesting blend of history and jazz, of family and brotherhood.
The play is performed by The Black Gents of Hollywood, formed in 2007 by Gray and a group of other actors, some of whom appear in the performance.
Playgoers should note that the script does include some profanity.
■ Paul Garber can be reached at 727-7327 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
■ Black Angels Over Tuskegee will be performed at 3 and 8 p.m. at Hanes Auditorium at Salem College. Tickets are $37.