A new play to Kansas City audiences, “A Soft Escape,” now playing at the Just Off Broadway Theatre brings two elements of surprise to audiences with the local acting debut of two of the trio of actors performing this heart-warming comedy, steeped in the dialogue and musicality of African-American speech.
Harvey Williams, JOB producer appears as William the centerpiece of the play, but sit back and be amazed at the two talented newcomers alongside him who perform like long-standing veterans next to him. Lynette Sparkman-Barnes and Orlando J. Newton served notice that all theatres need to be knocking on their doors to cast them in future productions. Williams discovered two jewels to appear alongside himself.
“A Soft Escape” opened Friday, Aug. 26 to a good opening night crowd who took a chance on a new piece and found themselves in for a pleasant surprise. The play keeps its comedic energy going throughout the two acts. “A Soft Escape” is a fresh play from SM Shephard-Massat and directed by Nicole Hodges Persley, that needs some gentle tightening could be ready for a serious run in New York theaters. It’s that good.
Audiences can always depend on Williams to give strong performances, but his work in this play allowed him to bring his duo of newbies to his level of acting expertise. Newton, a recent University of Kansas drama grad enters and delivers his part with expertise and poise. No one would know this was his KC acting debut. He’s young. He’s fresh. Other venues will be clamoring for his talents once the see him. As for Sparkman-Barnes, she’s gonna be tabbed for a plethora of roles with this one on the boards. She’s got style, flash, pizzazz, and strong stage presence. Even besides seasoned professional Harvey Williams, she equaled him scene for scene.
“A Soft Escape” concerns a couple in the twilight of their lives, after 40 years of marriage. The show is reminiscent of the Jackie Gleason “The Honeymooners,” but from the Black perspective. The beauty and charm from within the dialogue that makes the show endearing. The relationships that unveil the survived pasts of the characters gives the depth and love to the show. Beverly, the wife, is like a Blanche du Bois with anger and attitude. Fans of the TV show, “The Jeffersons” will see this as George verses the wise-cracking, know it all maid, Florence.
If you liked “The Jeffersons” or “The Honeymooners,” this show will surprise you. KU acting teacher Nicole Hodges Persley directed this trio of actors to an outstanding production. After opening night, she said she had worked with both Sparkman-Barnes and Newton previously and was thrilled to present them along with Harvey Williams in this gentle comedy.