As you enter the theater there is a very large half circular screen center stage. The screen one would think would be used to display images that moved the play forward. There was a single chair as well. On both sides of the stage there are wooden representations of Harlem USA buildings. There are four blue lights that specifically lights the screen only. Period Jazz music is being pumped into the theater to further pull you back to an earlier time, like the Harlem Renaissance. According to the program we would move from the U.S. Congressional Hall, BIMINI, West Indies and Abyssinian Baptist church where ADAM was preacher. Later in the show we learn that Adam Clayton Powell Jr played brilliantly by Timothy Simonson had to stay in BIMINI and travel to Harlem only on Sundays to preach.This show breaks the fourth wall and ADAM talks directly to the audience and this works very well. We are taken on a number of journeys with ADAM, from when his father went from a street thug to attending Yale University to get a doctorate in Divinity. We also learn how ADAM at age 7 memorized the Gospel s according to John and by age 12 had moved to Virginia where he attend school. Later at age 13 ADAM preached his first “trial” sermon and he was so moving he got three pimps and two show girls to come down and join the church along with many others. As a result of that sermon his father was moved to give him his official minister’s license. Known as a ladies’ man, ADAM says: I LOVED ALL WOMEN AS LONG AS THEY DIDN’T INTERFERE WITH MY WORK. ADAM was a congressman from 1945 to 1971 when he is censured and stripped of his seat. One of his major achievements was passing the POWELL AMENDMENT, which says the federal government could not fund any institutions or schools that enforced segregation.
This show is a one man show and falls on the shoulders of actor Timothy Simonson. Simonson is a spitting image of the real ADAM. He affects his voice and mannerisms and commands the stage like he is delivering a public address to a group of his supporters. There are ups and down in the show but the best moment thus far has to be when he puts on a robe and starts into a sermon like speech called: WHAT IS IN YOUR HAND? A story about DAVID and GOLIETH and much much more. He starts hitting the stride and vocal cadences of an old Baptist preacher delivering a powerful sermon on Easter Sunday when Jesus rises in victory. We are so moved by this sermon that audience members start to respond and talk back to the stage as they are energized by the performance. Simonson proves he is a force to be reckoned with with this speech alone. The show starts with ADAM sleep, fishing in BIMINI in a chair and ends the same way. ADAM at other times speaks more calm and deliberate like a regular man; if he could ever be called something so puny as normal. We are left with a man bigger than life and his motto for life: KEEP THE FAITH, BABY!!!
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