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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Where Storms are Born
By Macey Levin
Mothers know!— The mantra of the play's mother, Bethea.
Christopher Livingston and LeRoy McClain
Harrison David Rivers' play Where Storms are Born, receiving its world premiere at Williamstown Theatre Festival's Nikos Stage, is an ugly story of today. Taking- place in 2015, it centers on a fractured family in Harlem.

Carter, the patriarch, has been dead for over a decade. First-born son Myles has been in prison for thirteen years and has recently died there, leaving Bethea (Myra Lucretia Taylor) and her son Gabriel (Christopher Livingston) to wend their way through pain and frustration.

Myles was convicted of murder while participating in a drug deal with two other men, one of whom, Benton (Joshua Boone,) still lives in the neighborhood. Bethea has visited Myles every month at Ossining's Sing Sing Prison. As the play opens Bethea is in the cell with Luke (Luis Vega,) the prison guard who had befriended Myles and found the body. Anguish covers her face as does the strength she has fostered through her entire life. She knows Myles was innocent and is determined to find the truth. She continually says, "Mothers know!" as she endeavors to find answers, believing that Benton is the actual murderer. A further conflict for her is attempting to understand why her two sons have gone in different directions.

For the last thirteen years Gideon, in his mid-twenties, has been gliding through life without strong ambition while missing the brother who took him out to the fire escape and who would teach him about the stars and space. "One day we'll be up there," says Myles (Leroy McClain) as they peer at the sky in one of several flashbacks. Yet, Gideon has visited Myles only once and often refuses to talk about him with his mother. In other spheres of his life he has a job as a hotel clerk, which he deplores and he recognizes his homosexuality entering into a relationship with Luke, the guard. His best friend, a young woman named Worthy (Joniece Abbott-Pratt) is a whirlwind of energy and emotions. They try to counsel each other about their respective love lives; she is angry that her former boy friend has become engaged to her worst enemy.

There are many loose ends in the play. How did Myles die? Why weren't the other accomplices punished? What took the brothers on different paths? These problems pale in light of the conflicts faced by Bethea and Gideon. This is a character-driven drama unfolding layer by layer as we follow the several characters on the road to understanding and acceptance.

Ms. Taylor delivers a compelling performance as Bethea. As a God-fearing mother using all the might she can summon, she devotes herself to rectifying a great wrong. Her line delivery is varied as she goes from a stern warning to a comic line in a moment. The physicality she brings to Bethea dominates the stage whenever she appears.

Gideon is a difficult character to portray because of his aimlessness and suppressed ambivalence about his brother and the path of his life. Livingston draws a sympathetic young man who is suffering from family and social pressures. Abbot-Pratt is dynamic but she tears through much of her dialogue at such a pace that it is often difficult to understand her. She has a number of funny lines, but much of what she says is lost.

McLain's Myles has our empathy since his dreams have been shattered. He is a man who loves the stars but is no longer able to view them… exactly what his life has become.

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Where Storms are Born
By Harrison David Rivers
Directed by Saheem Ali
Cast: Myra Lucretia Taylor (Bethea) Luis Vega (Luke) Christopher Livingston (Gabriel) Joniece Abbott-Pratt (Worthy) Leroy McClain (Myles) Joshua Boone (Benton)
Scene design: Arnulfo Maldonado
Costume design: Jessica Pabst
Lighting design: David Weiner
Sound design: Miles Polaski
Stage Manager: Ellen Goldberg
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Williamstown Theatre Festival, Nikos Stage, Williamstown, MA
From 7/12/17; closing 7/23/17
Reviewed by Macey Levin at July 16 performance

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