Kingdom Review – True Love Conquers All

(left to right) Watson Swift and RjW Mays in Broken Nose Theatre’s world premiere of KINGDOM.
(left to right) RjW Mays, Christopher K. McMorris and Michael Mejia-Beal in Broken Nose Theatre’s world premiere of KINGDOM.

There are an awful lot of plays about weddings. Hell, so many Shakespeare plays center on weddings that whether or not a play ends with one is considered a standard by which to judge if it’s a comedy. But nearly every wedding play (or movie, or book, or any other media) is about a young, straight, white couple.

(left to right) Watson Swift, RjW Mays, Byron Coolie and Michael Mejia-Beal in Broken Nose Theatre’s world premiere of KINGDOM.

Kingdom bucks all that tradition and tells instead the story of two older black gay men, Arthur and Henry, who have been together most of their lives and finally have the opportunity to get married, but must decide whether or not they really want to. Meanwhile, their son Alex struggles with alcoholism and a complicated relationship with his ex, and their niece Phaedra works to make a new life for herself after a prison sentence and drug addiction that have left her estranged from her only daughter.

(left to right) Watson Swift and Christopher K. McMorris in Broken Nose Theatre’s world premiere of KINGDOM.

This story is absolutely beautiful. The characters are as vivid and colorful as the Disney merchandise that litters the set (the characters live just outside Disney World), but much more nuanced and real. The love between Arthur and Henry is so sweet and so genuine that my heart, like the Grinch’s, grew three sizes from watching it. Actors Watson Swift (Henry) and Christopher K. McMorris (Arthur) have a fantastic and utterly believable chemistry.

(left to right) Michael Mejia-Beal, Watson Swift, RjW Mays and Byron Coolie in Broken Nose Theatre’s world premiere of KINGDOM.

Their characters’ love of all things Disney, which Arthur cites as coming from the fact that even two black gay men, rejected by society, are made to feel wanted and special within the confines of the Magic Kingdom, is pure and lovely. And that’s not even mentioning the play’s plethora of representation: not a single character is white or straight, and Alex’s ex, Malik, is bisexual, a word they use onstage.

(left to right) Byron Coolie and Michael Mejia-Beal in Broken Nose Theatre’s world premiere of KINGDOM.

I cannot emphasize this enough: this script. Uses. The word. Bisexual. That might not seem like much, but as a bisexual person who sighs in disappointment over countless characters who “don’t like labels” or are treated like switch hitters between Team Straight and Team Gay (I’m looking at you, Orange is the New Black), I was absolutely elated to see not just a character who’s acknowledged as being bisexual, but a man of color who’s bisexual. At intermission, I was practically singing with excitement.

The script is also hysterical; the very first conversation is about whether Batman is a top or a bottom, and it only gets funnier from there. Phaedra in particular is fantastic comic relief; RjW Mays has spectacular comedic delivery. A few technical hiccups at my performance distracted from the main story, but not so much as to ruin the evening.

Kingdom is a lovely, lovely story, with lovely characters and moments that will tug at your heartstrings in ways that even a Disney movie can’t. Go see this play and cry happy tears all the way home.

(left to right) Christopher K. McMorris and Michael Mejia-Beal in Broken Nose Theatre’s world premiere of KINGDOM.

 

Ticket Information

Location: The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago

Regular Run: Saturday, March 10 – Saturday, April 7, 2018

Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm

Industry Night: Monday, March 12 at 7:30 pm

Understudy Night: Wednesday, March 21 at 7:30 pm

Tickets: Pay-what-you-can. Tickets are on sale now at the Broken Nose Theatre website.

All photos by Devon Green.

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