‘A Short Walk into Sunshine’
Written + Directed by Joe Albert Lima
Through Nov. 28
Steamer Co. Firehouse
117 Main St., Ossining
Westchester Collaborative Theater
K.C. Johnson is a charmer–on the outside. He has a knack for stylin’ and jokin’ and swaggerin’. On the make with a foxy lady, he’s liable to break into the pop song “Lean on Me.” In the talented person of highly animated actor Steve Allen, the persona rings true. Who doesn’t know someone like that?
What’s going on inside K.C. is another matter. He’s a tempest of torment and lost chances. K.C. is the first person we meet in Joe Albert Lima’s arresting drama “A Short Walk into Sunshine,” at Steamer Co. Firehouse in Ossining through Nov. 28.
K.C. is a 41-year-old recovering drug addict and psychiatric patient who’s camping out on the living room sofa of older sister Sarah Bates (played by the superb Tracey McAllister) in her Queens apartment. She took her brother in to help see him through outpatient treatment at a neighborhood clinic. Trouble is that K.C. doesn’t like going to treatment because he doesn’t want to be medicated.
K.C. and the girlfriend he courts in Act I, Peaches (Maiysha Jones), are a pair of lost souls from fractured families. Having met at the treatment center, their kinship in large part stems from their history of addiction and depression mingled with a mutual struggle to clear a path to a fruitful future.
The tagline for Mr. Lima’s work is “Destiny is not a matter of chance.” In a refreshingly straightforward and concise style, he probes the proverbial influences of “nature vs. nurture” in shaping personalities and life histories. Environments play a role in who we become, but, ultimately, it’s only our “self” who can shape personal destiny.
K.C. may have had a fraught family life, but so did sister Sarah, who is self-sufficient, disciplined and responsible. She administers tough love to K.C., but he continually chafes under her tightly-held reins. We also learn K.C. was academically accomplished, having attended Columbia University, if only for half a semester before drugs dragged him down and out.
Looking Forward to Fatherhood
It’s only when the prospect surfaces of K.C.’s becoming a father that he begins to pull himself up and act with a sense of responsibility. His entire outlook changes, as he starts to walk out of darkness and into the sunshine, as Mr. Lima poetically phrases it.
As writer and director of the slice-of-life play, Mr. Lima brings a facile way with dialogue. His words and idiomatic locutions sound like they are spontaneously spoken by real people rather than written by a disembodied dramatist.
The author told me his goal was to humanize the mentally ill, and he certainly succeeds in that pursuit. He added that, despite Sarah’s obvious good heart and love of her brother, many audience members side with K.C. against her. I guess some people just don’t love tough love.
Charisma + Naturalism
Mr. Allen and Ms. McAllister are extremely effective actors who are able to convey both stage charisma and deeply-felt naturalism at the same time. They propel the play in a way that keeps you engaged every moment, which is no small feat.
As glazed Peaches, whose hazy past of post-partum depression has left her pregnancy-phobic, Maiysha Jones is suitably fragile and frightened. In the role of Sarah’s ex-husband Max — who is opening a “healthy soul food” restaurant — Keith Bullock’s dry delivery makes him a fine foil for the firecracker that is Ms. McAllister’s Sarah.
Adding to the immediacy of this theatrical experience is the intimacy of the performance space, on the second floor of the Steamer Co. Firehouse on Main Street. You can’t get any closer to actors than here.The proximity helps glue audience members to the action, tension, and emotion — not to mention humor — that suffuses this provocative and thoughtful look at lives that matter even when they go tragically astray.
Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency. He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (914) 275-6887.