The three-play cycle honors the life and legacy of Emmett Till, with 10 actors playing 75 characters. We have reviewed one of the three, Benevolence, and will review That Summer in Sumner in the next issue. Additional information about the Trilogy follows the review.
I was more compelled to look and see if there was any grain of truth in the Melton’s story. It is true. Now, I must see the other two plays in this trilogy.
Review – BenevolenceMy interests in seeing the portrayal of how two couples, one Black and one White, reacted to Till’s murder got me into the theater. The family tensions in the first half featuring the White couple, Roy and Caroline Bryant, was a bit too much for me. The second half, featuring Clinton and Beulah Melton, was powerful and dramatic, yet I dismissed their story thinking that the writer, as do too many, took license to embellish the main story for entertainment purposes.
While I was calculating the storyline, the set amazed me. The graphics choregraphed by projection designer Mona Kasra made the storyline three dimensional and was uniquely essential to enjoying the show.
The actors were convincing, especially Anna DiGiovanni as Caroline Bryant, Billie Krishawn as Beulah, and Vaughn Ryan Midder as Clinton. Interestingly, Rolanda Watts, as the Melton’s grown daughter, had a very small role, but delivered an extremely powerful and convincing performance.
Partially out of Watt’s ending performance, I was more compelled to look and see if there was any grain of truth in the Melton’s story. It is true. (The Forgotten Story of Clinton Melton) Now, I must see the other two plays in this trilogy:
The Ballad of Emmett TillWith music, magic, and humor, The Ballad of Emmett Till introduces Emmett, or “Bo,” a boisterous Chicago adolescent teaming with curiosity and excited about his summer trip to Mississippi. On this mythic journey, his fateful encounter at a country store changes his life and our nation forever.
That Summer in Sumner (world premiere)Drawn from courtroom transcripts, news accounts, and government records, world premiere That Summer in Sumner reimagines the Mississippi trial of the accused killers of Emmett Till and the quest of a team of African-American reporters to uncover the truth and get new evidence before the Jim Crow court. With palpable energy, That Summer in Sumner takes audiences along for the ride on the reporters’ perilous and sometimes hilarious journey.