by Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant
Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, leaving a path of destruction and death through many parts of New Orleans. “Hercules Didn’t Wade in the Water” presents this tragedy as the national and local disaster that it was, but with several sub plots involving people in Chicago and in New Orleans specifically affected by it.
Much of the stage is set in an apartment in Chicago. Seamless transition between Chicago and New Orleans occurs through lighting cues. There are mini-sets on the stage that represent the action taking place in New Orleans.
An over-sized TV screen in the background is pivotal and vital to the play, consistently presenting reports on the status of Hurricane Katrina, relaying the horror which is to come, building tension as each storm update grows.
Tupelo (Sam Lothard) and Char (Shaun Nicole McCarthy) portray a Chicago couple. Lothard finds himself in New Orleans when Katrina strikes. He is there to make more money so that he and McCarthy can purchase a home and marry. Maxine (Shanita Bivins) and Eugene (Corey Lankford), also in Chicago, have more serious, possibly unsolvable issues. New Orleans resident Youngblood (Lamar K. Cheston) has life-threatening financial problems. He owes money to the wrong people.
Lothard and Cheston are isolated on a New Orleans rooftop, trapped by the hurricane.
In the program, Director Wali Jamal spoke highly of his actors. The director said, “All that remained for me as a director was to assemble the right actors to give breath and a pulse to these well-written entities. I must say that I could not find a better cast if I tried.”
The play is well cast. Lothard is particularly strong as a man determined to better his circumstances, to reach his goals. His actions when he and Cheston are trapped on the rooftop continue to show strength and the confidence and perseverance that they will survive.
So, why is “Hercules” part of the title? Perhaps it is Cheston’s unorthodox knowledge of Biblical characters that “passeth all understanding,” providing comic relief in an otherwise dramatic, serious play.
“Hercules” is ultimately about hope and forgiveness. A play powerfully written, directed and performed.
“Hercules Didn’t Wade in the Water” runs through May 21st at the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater, 937 Liberty Avenue, 3rd floor, Pittsburgh PA 15222. For more information, click here.