A Secret for Next Sunday

Intriguing elements still don't add up to a compelling storyline.


Through March 9. Tickets are $20; call 333-6389 or visit
The Next Stage, 1620 Gough (at Bush), S.F.

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Set in Chicago in 1991, with flashbacks to 1950s Alabama, Charles Johnson's play is about two African-American couples who share a dark past that prevents them from returning to the South. The ingredients are all here for a compelling drama. There's a menacing drug dealer living next door, a gun hidden in a closet, and a murderous secret from their youth that might be exposed next Sunday. The play, somewhat inspired by the brutal lynching of Emmett Till in 1955, tells the lesser-told story of the violent anger blacks also nurtured in the 1950s. But, even with all these intriguing elements in place, the production and script are unconvincing. Too much of the play's action centers on the two couples sitting around drinking Kool-Aid and complaining about malfunctioning hearing aids than on truly addressing the deeper issues of sin and redemption. The pace is slow, the acting fairly flat, and all the true dramatic action occurs offstage. In the end, the play shies away from any true confrontation and allows the characters to keep their secrets, thus undermining its potential impact.

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