Let’s Have Another Glass of Sherry – Review of “The Nacirema Society” 

By Claire DeMarco

Six debutantes are presented each year by the Nacirema Society to enjoy and be exposed to a world of culture, class, and privilege.  In 1964 in Montgomery, Alabama the Society is celebrating its 100th anniversary.  As a driving force within the Society, Grace Dubose Dunbar (Jeannine Foster-McKelvia is particularly excited about this year’s event since her granddaughter, Gracie Dunbar (Shakirah Stephens) is one of the six debutantes coming out.

Note:  Nacirema spelled backwards is America!

As matriarch of a well-to-do black family in the South, Grace is aware of the civil rights movement but concentrates more on her upper-class status and her involvement in the Nacirema Society.

Not as enthusiastic as Grace or her mother, Marie Dunbar (Angelique A. Strothers), Gracie has plans of her own that do not include the traditional roles the Dunbar family has always supported.  Nor is she interested in the matchmaking Grace and her friend Catherine Adams Green (Brenda Marks) are concocting to connect her romantically with Green’s grandson, Bobby Green (Nickolas Page).

Visitors to the Dunbar home prior to the big Nacirema Society event add some additional excitement (Alpha Campbell Jackson (Karla C. Payne) and her daughter Lillie Campbell Jackson (Tajionna Clinton).  Reporter Janet Logan (Dominique Briggs) is also on site to write an article about the upcoming society event.

Before the evening ends and after several rounds of sherry, grievances rise to the surface.

It seems that not only is Gracie coming out but also several long-hidden family secrets are, too!

And maid Jessie Roberts (Cheryl El-Walker) is oblivious to all the drama, intent on collecting all the empty sherry glasses.

Foster-McKelvia rules!  And her scepter is the ever-present handkerchief she wields in her right hand.  Like Naval flags used to communicate at sea, the handkerchief’s position and movement indicate her mood and level of pleasure or displeasure.  Foster-McKelvia’s comedic timing is perfect and her facial expressions and movements add to her delivery.

Marks is delightful as Grace’s best friend.  Introduced as slightly “excitable”, Marks graduates to a full blown “ditz,” not quite in control as a participant in a scheme that goes awry. This accelerates her continuous need for another glass of sherry.  Marks facial expressions and general movement are top notch.

Payne is believable as the passionate, working-class mom who wants only the best for her daughter.  Her envy of Grace and her family’s fortune is palpable but at the same time we understand and sympathize with her.

Bubbly, enthusiastic, independent and ready to take on the world!  Stephens expertly interprets her character’s youthful exuberance.

Clinton as Lillie is convincing as an intelligent and confident woman who plans to attend medical school and also maintain a romantic relationship.

This is a funny, laugh-out-loud play with a very talented cast!

The set by Herbert Newsome is detailed with contents typical of a wealthy family home.  Part of the stage is elevated to handle scene changes in the home.  When the scene demands a location change, the set is darkened and a table and two chairs are placed in front of the stage.

Great direction by Eileen J. Morris

“The Nacirema Society” was written by Pearl Michelle Cleage.


“The Nacirema Society” is a production of New Horizon Theater, Inc. Performances run from May 31st – June 16th in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s 3rd floor Helen Rauh Rehearsal Hall at the O’Reilly Theater. For more information, click here.

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