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Run, Mourner, Run at Flashpoint Theatre Company


The premiere of a powerful play about homophobia, racism, poverty, and greed is now running at Philadelphia’s Flashpoint Theatre Company.  Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Run, Mourner, Run, set in rural North Carolina, offers no easy resolution, no happy ending.  It is heartbreakingly honest in its hopelessness.

AimeKellyandGerard Joseph
Aime Kelly and Gerard Joseph in Flashpoint’s Run, Mourner, Run. Photo by Bill Hebert (BHPhotos). Joseph said it has been an amazing experience to see audiences have been so moved and affected by the production.

The one-hour production is very stylized; its eight-person ensemble not only acts and sings, but also narrates.  This unique style of writing is pure poetry, effectively referencing African-American storytelling, southern Gospel, and Greek tragedy, and giving insight into the characters’ “internal landscapes” (a fundamental concern in Randall Kenan’s Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, from which McCraney’s play is adapted).

The protagonists’ race and sexuality are at odds with the predominant Christian Evangelical beliefs of their community, yet they are so deeply rooted in it that they remain.  They are good men who are led to make bad decisions, not out of malice, but out of desperation.  Under the sensitive direction of Matt Pfeiffer (a five-time Barrymore Award nominee and recipient of the F. Otto Haas Award for Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist in 2008), the production exposes the despair of these “outsiders, as people living on the fringe of the American dream.”

Keith Conallen in Flashpoints Run Mourner Run. Photo by Bill Hebert BHPhotos
Keith Conallen in Flashpoint’s Run, Mourner, Run. Photo by Bill Hebert (BHPhotos).

Through subtle performances by Keith Conallen and Gerard Joseph as the tragic lovers (Dean Williams and Raymond Brown), Aimé Kelly as his devout wife (Gloria Brown), and Brian McCann as the hateful instigator (Percy Terrell), the audience comes to understand the plight of what it has meant to be gay, and black, in the South–a recurrent theme in the writings of both McCraney (b. 1980) and Kenan (b. 1963).  For lead actor Conallen, “being allowed to tap into those feelings of desperation, lust, love, and selfishness was a great exercise.”

Pfeiffer believes that “great plays ask great questions [and] great questions cross divides . . . regardless of sex, race, or creed.”  Run, Mourner, Run is a work that should resonate with everyone, and should be seen by everyone, with its important subject matter, its haunting language and staging, and its brilliant cast and direction.  This is as good as theater gets—socially relevant, emotionally complex, and exquisitely artistic.

Performances run through Nov. 20, at the Second Stage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia.  For information and tickets, call 215.665.9720, or see  Either way:  do not miss this!