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June 2009
The High Priestess Of Dark Alley

by Nasser Metcalfe

The High Priestess Of Dark Alley

Creative Team:
Playwright/Director: Jackie Alexander
Producer: Marjorie Moon
Scenic Design: Jamie Durant
Costume Design: Helen Simmons
Production Stage Management/Lighting Design: Avan

Nicoye Banks (Sweet), Michael Chenevet (Charles), Marcelle Gover (Celeste), Zeb Hollins, III (Franklin), Avan Aura Vence (Janee), Mari White (Claire)


For those in the New York area make sure to do yourself a favor and check out The High Priestess Of  Dark Alley currently running at Brooklyn’s famed Billie Holiday Theatre. It is not often that a play comes along that offers an enriching blend of heart warming family drama with side splitting humor and a dash of social commentary.  A superbly talented ensemble cast brings to life a story set in post Katrina New Orleans where a tight knit Creole family is put to the test by color and class conflict, forbidden love, and a ravaging social plague that threatens to compromise everything. Celeste Thibodaux is a domineering matriarch who despite some of her misguided values, seeks to provide the best guidance she knows how to her two daughters, Claire and Janee. The issues between the two generations stem from Celeste’s inability to allow her daughters their own choices. She attempts to dictate everything from the clothes they wear to the wine they drink to the men they choose to be with. Claire is recovering from a broken marriage to a deceitful yet complex man named Charles. Janee on the other hand is head over heels for Sweet, a good brother who earns a living with his hands, lacks intellectual refinement, and yet obviously is wise in the ways of the world. Add to the mix Franklin, an upstanding deacon of the church who enlists as Claire’s handyman, helping to repair the roof of the home she shares with her sister, but may have more personal interests in mind. As the drama and humor unfold, the audience gets to see the characters get stripped down to their inner most being as their truest intentions are revealed.

The High Priestess Of Dark Alley boasts an incredibly talented cast who breathe life into their respective characters, delivering performances that will resonate with audience members long after they leave the theatre. As the self righteous elder Celeste, Marcelle Gover brings a textured performance that examines the inner conflict of her own personal heartbreaks with what she feels is her parental duty to her children. As the sweet yet wounded Claire, Mari White offers a glimpse into someone faced with severe inner turmoil that is only exacerbated by the fact that she has to keep her pain a secret. Aura Vence portrays the free spirited Janee who “keeps it real” at every turn often holding up a figurative mirror for those around her to see the truth in themselves whether they are ready to or not. Her fierce loyalty to her loved ones endears her to the audience throughout the show. As far as the men go there is Charles the estranged husband of Claire who is desperate to salvage whatever is left of his marriage yet has a hard time accepting that he has done irrevocable damage to the relationship. Michael Chenevet offers a portrayal of the character that combines pain, contrition, and need for control into a tightly woven performance of depth and substance. As the god fearing Franklin, Zeb Hollins, III delivers the spirit and essence of a man who is yearning but has to come to terms with the weight of his choices. Do you accept the weight of the world on your shoulders or deny your heart? By the end of the play, Franklin must answer this question for himself. Rounding out the cast is veteran actor Nicoye Banks. As the venerable Sweet, Banks depicts a man who subscribes to traditional values as it applies to himself and others. With a penchant for insightful doses of honesty a razor sharp timing, Banks’ Sweet is a nuanced yet charming portrayal of a man who always speaks from the heart and strives to keep that heart in the right place. High Priestess Of Dark Alley offers a well written and directed piece of theatre. Renowned dramatist Jackie Alexander serves in both capacities with creative originality and visionary sensibilities. The story is paced to allow the audience to feel as though they are accompanying the characters on their journey not just witnessing it. The direction makes excellent use of the naturalistic stage design, keeping the action in fluid motion when needed and appropriately stationary at the right moments. Superb lighting and costumes add the final touch to a stellar production. This gem in Brooklyn is worth the effort to get to. After a successful run earlier in the year, The High Priestess Of Dark Alley is back until June 28. Catch it while you can.

The performance schedule is Thursdays . Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays
at 3:00 p.m. and Sundays at 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $15-$23, with additional discounts available for
seniors and students.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.zerve.com/BHolidayInc/DrkAlley by
phone at 212.209.3370, or at the theatre.s box office at Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton Street.