Tonya does not want to have anymore children. Not in a world where “their friends might, kill them, the police might kill them, in a world that don’t respect life.” She says her 17 year old daughter with a baby is falling down a hole that it will take her a lifetime to dig her way out of. As a part of her argument for an abortion she details the story of a mother learning that her son has been shot down. She receives the news as she is washing his clothes and preparing his dinner not knowing he will never eat the meal or wear the laundry she has washed. It is delivered as part of a chilling monologue that helps to explain why the Lower Bottom Playaz offer a different brand of Wilson than you may have come to expect.
We play Wilson from the experience of our lives. We have lived beyond the playwrights observations and see his descriptions of the now pass as vivid depictions of our lived reality. The realty of drive-bys in the eighties has given way to the police terror and continued inter-group violence on steroids. We have seen the connection from the pass to the present that Wilson intends and we see beyond it to an even more blasted and blistered current moment.
Tonya’s monologue is a political position. She is in resistance to death with her refusal to bear life. Her decision is also influenced by her man’s choices. His choices are influenced by his reality. But his answer is to make something/life in the absence of all it takes to insure and sustain that life. He insist they try even if they have to call the undertaker.
She has a baby daddy in jail and fears her current man who has done time for murder is on a path back to jail. He, King Hedley, II is trying to make life grow in the rocky soil he has inherited. He never considers remaking the box his life came in –he is bound by his perception of personal history, national history, blood, and honor and out of that lens of those contexts and grim necessity he is using what he has been given to create what he perceives he needs. His ability to do so is impacted by other men who have their own rocky soil. It seems everyone’s garden in the land of rocky soil is watered by blood. Tonya’s babies father’s have blood on their hands as she fears, instructed by her lived experience, the possibility of her unborn child being bled of life.
King wants the baby in order to put something in the world. He plants a seed in the less than optimal soil of his backyard and sees it struggle to grow and reasons a child deserves a chance at life, he advised Tonya against putting it in a coffin before it draws breath. He wants to plant a seed in life even if the soil is not all it could be. How else can we go forward? How else can we get to the top of the mountain?
King Hedley, II is a tale about men and blood honor. It is a tale of women and longing for a life with good soil where love family and dreams can grow. It is a saga about struggle, the weight of things older than us, resistance and the prayer for redemption.
See it at the Flight Deck now through September 6, 2015.