My nearly twelve-year-old son Charlie has become a veteran attender of local children’s theatre. From puppet shows to young musicals, he has enjoyed performances for kids since he was a preschooler. This week he experienced his first play that spoke directly to his new, developing young adult identity: Darius and Twig. The play is based upon the novel by Walter Dean Myers and was adapted for the Kennedy Center Family Theater stage by playwright Caleen Sinnette Jennings. This autumn Charlie has been navigating the new and sometimes unsettling world of middle school, and thus the themes of friends, conflict and pressure in the play keenly resonated with him.
The story of these two high school friends who live in Harlem is told by the budding writer Darius. When Darius addresses the audience or reverts to his inner fantasy life, he speaks in the most glorious iambic pentameter. The audience can literally feel the elegant poetry of Myers reverberating in the theater. When the friends speak to each other, teachers, bullies and family members, dialogue is natural. This switch was both artistic realistic, and Charlie loved it.
Darius is the imaginative writer who would spend his days working on stories and studying … if he did not have to spend so much time at home taking care of his struggling, alcoholic mother and younger brother, as well as dodging the bullies and crime in his neighborhood and building. Best friend Twig is a track star who must convince his family of his gift in order to train, stay on the team and impress college scouts, rather than work in the family bodega. The struggles of these characters are portrayed with believable skill by actors Justin Weaks (Darius) and Christopher Wilson (Twig.) Manu Kumasi and Latia Stokes do triple and quadruple duty in various supporting roles as the adults and other teens in the boys’ lives.
Charlie said this was the best play he had ever seen, and right now he is in a post-Halloween candy daze, curled up on his bed reading the novel on his Kindle. He and I both heartily recommend that other families with children grade 6 and up head to the Kennedy Center to catch this play. The Kennedy Center recommends age 13 and up. In the play there are neighborhood shootings (off-stage.) Please defer to the maturity level of your individual child.
Charlie and I received an invitation to the press performance of Darius and Twig. No additional compensation received.