Jumping the Broom
By Todd A. Smith
What makes someone marriage material? Is it their bank account? Is it their age? Or is it the willingness to work past someone’s faults and their past in an effort to become one?
“Marriage Material,” the new stage play by Houston playwrights Je’Caryous Johnson and ShaWanna Renee Rivon tackles a familiar topic on the urban theater circuit, but one that needs to be discussed in great detail, considering the sad state of marriages in the 21st century.
The play centers on three couples, considering “jumping the broom,” who agree to attend a couples retreat, hosted by Bishop Love Jones (Michael Colyar of “Martin” fame) to see if they are truly marriage material. Like many couples, these three couples struggle from imperfect relationships with problems ranging from trust issues to age issues.
Allen Payne plays Joey, the good and hard-working man, that many women unfortunately believe does not exist, who wants nothing more than to marry Koren (Jill Marie Jones of “Girlfriends”) and cater to her every need, till death does them part.
Unfortunately, like many women, Koren deals with trust issues after her ex-boyfriend Michael (R&B star Tank) cheats on her with her best friend Jackie (T-Boz of TLC). Jackie is like many women who will settle for less simply to say they have a man, even if the man has no real plans for a long term relationship with them.
She steals her best friend’s man then finds it strange that she does not believe that he will remain faithful to her.
Rivon and Johnson do an extremely good job in highlighting the difficulties of maintaining a successful relationship when a significant age gap exists between the man and woman, which are rarely portrayed on stage. Derrick played by Keir Spates of Houston is a good man, but only 27 years old, which makes his 43-year-old girlfriend Shauna (Rashonda Tate Billingsley) unsure of their future.
Shauna uses her age and financial prosperity against Derrick, who sometimes seems more interested in playing video games than playing the man of the house, which is complaint of many older women who date younger men. They also tend to use the fact that they have a secure job and many 20-somethings don’t as an insult to their manhood.
Although some of these topics have been routinely portrayed on stage, what separates “Marriage Material” from other plays is superb writing and excellent acting. One would come to expect a great performance from a veteran like Payne, however, Patrice Lovely who plays Beulah Mae steals the show in role that would give Tyler Perry’s Madea character a run for her money.
Colyar does not disappoint as a bishop and Beulah Mae’s new husband, who sometimes confuses John the Baptist with Lil Jon the rapper. Nevertheless, the advice that they give to the couples is priceless and timely and should be heard from all couples thinking of making the big step.
“Marriage Material” is an extremely hilarious and thought-provoking play in which one has to search hard to find any criticisms. However, Payne is beginning to become typecast as the good guy in most of his performances, while Tank plays a womanizer, similar to his character in the film Preacher’s Kid with LeToya Luckett.
Nevertheless, Johnson and Rivon deserve kudos for showing the positive side to African American men, when many with the same platform choose to stick with negative stereotypes.
In “Marriage Material” Beulah tells the ladies that many want relationships straight from Hollywood, but in the real world nothing is even close to motion picture perfect. A good marriage takes hard work and if you are able to find someone who will work as hard as it takes to make love last, than that is truly marriage material.
The play is currently touring nationwide until May 2011, with shows planned for cities such as Chicago, Boston, Detroit and Los Angeles.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.