Dreams, Sacrifice, and Garden Gnomes

​Review of Broke-ology at Seattle Public Theater

Broke Ology

​“Gonna make me feel any worse?”

​It was not only the question on the character Malcolm King’s lips, but the one running through my mind during the entirety of Seattle Public Theater’s current production, Broke-ology. For those not yet versed here is a definition:

1. the study of being broke
2. a play by Nathan Louis Jackson detailing the lives of a poor, African American family: two brothers, their sick, aging father and his visions of their deceased mother

And since I am a tenured “list-ologist,” here are the top three reasons to see this play:
1. Stubby, the “incog-negro” garden gnome.
2. The smile-inducing relationship between Ennis King (Corey Spruill) and Malcolm King (Tyler Trerise), the brothers who haul Stubby into the living room.
3. The refreshing cast of four and well-dressed set, amplified by the singular intimacy of Seattle Public's Bathhouse theatre.

That being said, side effects of this play may include:
1. General melancholy.
2. Guilt, possibly echoing regret for splurging on that nice, new pair of shoes.
3. Garden gnome-induced heebie jeebies.

The mood in the room at the end of Broke-ology is much akin to the Seattle weather outside. Though that isn’t to say the play isn’t funny; it is. It’s punctuated by snippets of dark and biting humor, the kind that makes you laugh really hard until your brain catches up with the speed of the dialogue to remember, “Oh no, that was a joke about lynching.”

Still, somewhere in that goofy, gloomy game of survival, is an examination of illness, optimism, responsibility, dreams and sacrifice. And all of it is somehow squeezed into two hours spent in the King family’s living room. In those meager minutes, Jackson begins a discussion: How do we care for our parents as they begin to deteriorate? How do we care for our children when we are too frail to help them? What are you willing to sacrifice for those you love?

On opening night, during the very last scene, when those questions breathed down the spectators’ necks, the audience’s eyes were fixated… though it varied between fighting back tears and staring vacantly at the box of Quaker Oats in the corner.

If you’re looking for the answers to those immense inquiries, you won’t find them here. What you will find is a newfound appreciation for settling scores with dominoes, and another surge of musings about life, love and family as the cast returns for their bows.


Seattle Public Theater

Through October 20

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