In ‘Watsons Go to Birmingham’, the black family’s road trip meets history

“The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963” reminds us that the heat and struggles of family life and growing up happen simultaneously with disturbing events in the world around us. No matter how smart or nice Mom, Dad, and Grandma are, they can’t necessarily make those big monsters disappear. But they can show us how to cope with them.

Phase one of production of “The Watsons,” adapted by Cheryl L. West from Christopher Paul Curtis’ award-winning novel for middle-aged readers, opened Friday at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. Brandite Reed and Jeff Frank co-directed the show.

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Children’s roles are double cast; I’ve seen the cast of Birmingham.

Black parents Mama (Krystal Drake) and Daddy (Sherrick Robinson) raise three children in Flint, Michigan: rebellious teenager Byron (Michael Loomans); clever but fearful Kenny (Zephaniah Singh Ponder), the narrator and point of view of the play; and sister Joetta (Paisley Luna). After Byron gets into trouble again, the parents decide he needs a long summer visit to Grandma Sands (Cynthia Cobb) in Alabama.

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