Dot Turner (Candace Nicholas-Lippman) is a hopeless junkie with tattered clothing, bags under her eyes, slurred speech and a needle stuck in her arm; she’s delusional enough to think that her fiendishly tragic (and violent) boyfriend Jimmie Harris—played frighteningly well by Eddie Jackson—isn’t such a bad guy. Dot and Jimmie paint a flawless picture of a flawed life.When Dot’s father Solomon—played by Bill Miller (who puts in an excellent performance despite a few botched lines)—flashes back to Dot’s childhood, the story becomes that much more heart-wrenching. When his wife Carmen (Alnetta Harrison) passes away, Solomon wonders if there’s anything left to live for.
The story of Solomon’s Storefront, set during the socially charged 1960s civil-rights movement, depicts a father—now a widow with failing health and a life filled with struggle—who is at his breaking point. The only glimmers of hope are his grocery store, his friend Leroy Jenkins (Michael Turner) and a rambunctious and inquisitive boy, Tyler Brown, played by Jabari Timmons, who runs from bullies almost as quickly as he asks questions.
Expertly written and directed by co-founder of Images Theater Company Lisa Lacy, Solomon’s Storefront tackles life’s unexpected tragedies (drugs, racism, death, old age, failing health) and a choice: Will Solomon take the hardships life has given him as a sign to quit, or will he cherish what he has and be free?
Lacy’s grasp of life’s complexity is breathtakingly complete, which makes Solomon’s story, while melancholy, hopeful and full of joy. His personal relationships are tender—even if at times he seems broken and curmudgeonly.
And just when we think Lacy has weaved together a purely didactic tale, Jimmie’s junkie character, poetic as he is pathetic, dances around the stage with a black-toothed smile and a devilish message about his murderous “mojo.” He really is a joyful mess.
Tamiko Greely plays Tyler’s Bible-gripping grandmother to a T, and James Ellison gives an earnest performance as a young Solomon to round out this well-acted tale of misery and hope.
Lacy’s poignant writing—full of sadness and unexpected laughter—tells us loud and clear that the cure for the trouble of life is, of course, more life.