Twelve year-old Tino (Jay Mazyck) is a bright, sympathetic boy who keeps to himself, his Bible, and serendipitous areas of researched interest. After his mother was caught in Newark neighborhood crossfire, Tino was begrudgingly taken in by her foul-mouthed, bitter sister, Alneesa (Sarita Covington), who thinks nothing of berating or beating him. They live poor.
Jay Mazyck and Sarita Covington
At school, the boy’s shown kindness and attention by cantankerous cafeteria worker Bernadette (Brenda Pressley), but otherwise has no friends…until he meets Deja (Courtney Thomas), a sassy, suspicious girl he intrigues and softens.
Playwright Chisa Hutchinson’s story revolves around a grand good deed engineered by the kids, things coming to a head at Tino’s home, and a resolution/rescue whose lack of complication is the sole unbelievable, disappointing part of the well written piece. (This could be fixed.) Characters sound right, genuine in speech and attitude. Relationships are well defined. Positive take on religion winds through the piece offering ballast to a rocky life.
Barely out of school, in his Off Broadway Debut, Jay Mazcyk is an absolute find. There isn’t a moment we don’t believe this smart, sweet, gentle boy who braces for the worst, but hopes for the best. Listening silently to a church sermon, reactions are subtle, but present. Response to kindness is surprise and gratitude, to violence – endurance, yet the actor never allows his character to seem spineless. A wonderfully nuanced performance.
Courtney Thomas, Brenda Pressley, Jay Mazyck
Though Deja should look younger, Courtney Thomas imbues the sixth grader with sass, curiosity, respect, affection, and enthusiasm, and sincerity as needed.
Sarita Covington’s Alneesa (Tino’s Aunt) is so shudderingly authentic, the character is difficult to watch. As Bernadette, Brenda Pressley offers a sharp tongue, toughened hide and tender heart without ever veering into cliché.
Also featuring the voice of Cezar Williams more convincing as Preacher than Principal.
Director Jessi D. Hill defines his characters with speech and movement. Tino is so halting at first, we think he might be simple. In fact, timidity, reflection, and deference combine. Vernacular is beautifully executed. Silence is never empty. Emotional transitions play authentic. Use of physical space is seamless and well timed.
Multi-level Design allows scenes to shift smoothly despite speed of sequence. That we’re never confused is a tribute to the director and Set designer Lee Savage.
Costumes by Nicole Wee aptly reflect economics and culture. Sound Design by Sadah Espii Proctor adds dimensional atmosphere, enriching every mood and location.
Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Jay Mazyck and Courtney Thomas
Keen Company presents
Surely Goodness and Mercy by Chisa Hutchinson
Directed by Jessi D. Hill
410 West 42nd Street
Through April 16, 2019