"King Hedley II": New Play Takes Center Stage at SMC

In a dark backyard in Pittsburgh, Pa., come travel back to the year of 1985, a world where hard lines are drawn between races, greed propels people to violence and love's influence brings surprising results. Amidst the darkness, you find yourself in the world of "King Hedley II." "King Hedley II" opened on Friday, April 2 on the Main Stage at Santa Monica College. This August Wilson play is one of ten in Wilson's ten-play Pittsburgh cycle. Wilson's plays span different decades as they focus on the twentieth century African-American experience.

Directed by Janie Jones, the drama revolves around Hedley and his efforts to make enough money to provide for his family. Hedley tries to make ends meet by selling stolen refrigerators so that he can open up a video store with his partner in crime, Mister.

In "King Hedley II," Wilson's characters all face the harsh reality of black American life in the 1980s. Social problems like poverty and violence are addressed, where guns frequently accessorize and gang-related problems are commonplace.

Jonathan Sherman delivers a stable and convincing performance as King Hedley II. Performing in his second production at SMC, Sherman describes the character of Hedley as different from other characters he has previously played. "He is a man who wants a lot and he is very violent," Sherman said.

Sherman did not want to reveal too much about the play, though the ending will shock you, he said.

Supporting Hedley's character is Celia M. Rivera as Tonya. Rivera delivers a shining performance of a strong woman carrying Hedley's child. Tonya is a woman who values a stable family life instead of materialistic things.

While Hedley lives with the illusion that money will take away all the problems that are surrounding him, Tonya fights to make Hedley see beyond his pride and materialism.

The language in this play sets this production apart from others. It is dynamic and adds personality to its characters. The actors and actresses perform many emotional monologues and the dialect puts it into a cultural context.

The issues that Wilson addresses in his play are still relevant in America, 25 years later. Violence, poverty, and limited opportunity are common elements in today's society, fueled by segregation and race-related issues.

"King Hedley II" runs Friday through Sunday from April 2 to April 11 at the SMC Main Stage. Discounted tickets for all SMC students are available at the box office.