CenterStage Theatre has become a local hub for debuting challenging new plays, with a specific focus on the work of New York City-based playwright Jason Odell Williams. In 2016 CenterStage (along with Skylight Theatre in LA) debuted Williams' "Church & State," which was co-developed with CenterStage Artistic Director Ralph Meranto. That work explored how our political system would look if politicians were forthright. Williams' new comedy-drama, "Division Street," had its world premiere at JCC CenterStage last weekend.
The product of a two-year collaboration between Williams and Meranto, this new story is by turns tense and lighthearted as it tackles the ever-topical issue of how we think about and discuss race. "Division Street" centers on a Hollywood couple's interracial marriage, which becomes fraught when white husband Robbie (played by CITY's editor David Andreatta) is nominated for a Golden Globe for his movie role as a racist cop who shoots an unarmed black youth. The premise itself makes sense: to be nominated for the award, Robbie must have given a convincing performance, and that cannot have been an easy sight for his pregnant African American wife, Nia (Esther Winter). As Robbie's star rises, Nia also struggles with her own career taking the back burner. And the conflict is compounded when Robbie's culture-appropriating white manager Trey (Scott Adams) enters the scene, acting like a caricature of a gangster. Burn, Hollywood, burn!
"Division Street" runs approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. Remaining performances take place on Thursdays, November 7 and 14, at 7 p.m.; Saturdays, November 10 and 16, at 8 p.m.; and Sundays, November 10 and 17, at 2 p.m. JCC CenterStage Theatre, 1200 Elmwood Avenue. Tickets are $29, $20 for students, and $33 for reserved seating. 461-2000; jccrochester.org/centerstage.