Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Theater Review: Broke-ology

A Sweet Story about Priorities
By Lauren Yarger
Two brothers are at odds about how best to care for their ailing father in Nathan Louis Jackson’s tender and moving Broke-ology playing off-Broadway at Lincoln Center.

Malcolm King (Alano Miller) returns to his Kansas City, KS home after college to take a job with the EPA and ostensibly to help brother Ennis (Francois Battiste) care for their father, William (Wendell Pierce), who is suffering debilitating effects of Multiple Sclerosis. An offer to return to his Connecticut alma mater to teach under his mentor has Malcolm wondering whether he can make the sacrifice to stay, however.

There’s no decision to make, according to Ennis, who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college and who works at a menial job to support himself and his girlfriend and their baby. The tensions are skillfully woven against a genuine affection among the King men and the presence of their mother, Sonia (Crystal A. Dickinson), whom we meet in 1982 when she is expecting Ennis, and again as the action continues in 2009 when she appears as a ghost to William.

Whether the brothers are engaging in good-natured banter as they play a game of bones with their father , discuss Ennis’ "scientific” theory of how to be broke, prankishly steal a neighbor’s garden troll or argue about whether William should go into a nursing home, the drama is taut, well directed by Thomas Kail and real. You not only feel for the brothers in their desire to pursue their dreams while doing what is right by their father, but you understand William’s anguish about not being able to care for himself and wanting to do what is best for his sons.

Dolyale Werle creates the “men obviously live here’ cluttered and dingy set representing the King home in a less than desirable section of Kansas City and costumer Emily Rebholtz dresses the men appropriate to their characters. “We Are Family” is among the selections playing as the audience enters (Jill BC DuBoff, sound) to set the mood and lighting by Jason Lyons lets us catch glimpses of life outside the house where the Kings seem trapped.

It’s funny and moving and ultimately, a portrait of our own family lives: we’ll ether be in the position of the sons or the father one day, despite our best hopes and dreams, and we too will have to decide what’s most important.

Broke-ology plays through Nov. 22 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center, 150 West 65th Street, NYC. Tickets are available by calling (212) 239-6200
Outside NY: (800) 432-7250 For discounted group tickets go here and indicate the charity you wish to support is Masterwork Productions.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Suicide
• Ghost

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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