theatre: “BlackTop Sky” challenges stereotypes of the homeless

Meredith Shea

“BlackTop Sky” tells the gritty story of life in the projects, a part of town often filled with decrepit housing and crime.  This drama comes to life in the intimate atmosphere of Unicorn Theatre’s Jerome Stage, with the audience sitting three feet from the action.

When a 20-something year old Ida loses her keys and realizes a young homeless man, Klass, found them, she is forced to face her fears and confront him.  Her well-to-do boyfriend, Wynn, doesn’t like her communicating with the dirty “pigeon” of a man Klass appears to be.

Kansas City native playwright Christina Anderson’s world premiere comes alive when the stories of Ida, Klass and Wynn unravel, leaving audiences speechless.  Anderson challenges the stereotypes associated with black homeless men and provokes audiences to change their “I’m better than you” attitudes.

Tosin Morohunfola (Klass) is the highlight of “BlackTop Sky.”  He nails the intricate layers of Klass’ inner persona that are revealed and piled up over time.  Morohunfola takes a balls-to-the-wall approach from the beginning and doesn’t back down from the standard of excellent acting he sets.

He shows his physical ability in a fight scene with an imaginary police officer, unafraid of repeatedly  throwing himself on the ground and getting back up again while battling reality and hallucinations.

During the climax of the play, Morohunfola breaks out in a monologue, giving the audience insight

into the life Klass has lived. This revealing monologue has the ability to change audience members’ views of segregated life in the projects.  In this moment, it feels like Klass has the power to stop a heartbeat, with all eyes on him.

UMKC senior theatre performance major Frank Oakley III made his Unicorn Theatre debut playing the character Wynn.  His interactions with Chioma Anyanwu (Ida) are as charming as ever as his character attempts to convince Ida to move in with him, always playing it smooth and cool.

Oakley shows his talent and potential when Wynn gets angry, turning up the dial of his acting ability one more notch.

He is most present in these moments, and Anyanwu and Morohunfola react accordingly, making the play a rewarding experience for viewers.

Much of the thrill of “BlackTop Sky” comes from its intimate setting with the audience.  The stage is small with audience on three sides.  The set is raw with uneven fences and littered trash. The show is very “in your face” physically and intellectually.

Real life sounds of sirens and radio hosts are used to complement the action.

Not only is the action exciting to watch, so are the scene transitions as stage assistants dressed in costume enter and exit throughout the theatre.

This adds to the effect that other people are around, but are also afraid to come up to Klass, emphasizing the dangerous atmosphere associated with the homeless.  These extras set many scenes by bringing on and off different pieces of garbage and thrown out furniture.

Anderson’s “BlackTop Sky” is destined to receive more attention beyond Kansas City and Unicorn Theatre in the future, and it’s a must see while it’s still in town through Feb. 10.  Student rush tickets are $10.

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