Blue Door
Cortez L. Johnson and Vimel Sephus . Photo: Daren Scott.

Blue Door

Moxie Theatre, San Diego

Written by Tanya Barfield
Directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg
Moxie Theatre
January 29-March 5, 2017

A man with a serious case of insomnia is forced to take a serious look at his life choices in “Blue Door” at the Moxie Theatre.

Lewis (Vimel Sephus) is a professor of mathematics at a prestigious university. While the majority of us don’t normally run in such rarified circles, we can still identify with him because who hasn’t spent a night or two or three knotted in bed sheets trying to get some shut-eye.

An African American married to a white woman for 25 years, heavy on Lewis’ mind this night is the recent departure of his wife because of his refusal to participate in the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. “It’s also about housework,” he tells us in an aside.

The house is empty, but not for long. Lewis is about to be visited by Simon, Jesse, Charlie, and Rex (all played to perfection by Cortez L. Johnson) representing a century of ancestors and the black history Lewis refuses to embrace.

It soon becomes clear that, as a modern man, Lewis has everything except peace of mind. Contrast this with great-grandfather Simon, a slave with nothing to his name, yet we share in his utter delight as he picks a flower for sweet Katie with whom he will soon jump over the broom.

There are more gifts from his forbearers if only Lewis will accept them: such as Simon’s mother passing down a custom of painting the door of their inadequate cabin the color blue as a way to keep out evil. The gesture, unfortunately, does little to prevent a litany of abuse, loss, injustice, and self-destructive behavior that shapes each succeeding generation.

Lewis finally comes to realize that his obsession to break the cycle by being a self-made man has sown its own seeds of self destruction. With the help of his ancestors, Lewis is a man about to replant his garden.

Fans of Moxie might be scratching their heads as to why a theater company devoted to presenting works by, for, and about women has given its stage over to a two-man show. In yet another example of defying stereotypes, Moxie’s “Blue Door” features an all-female production crew starting with playwright Tanya Barfield, director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, and stage manager Nora Kessler.

Scenic designer Victoria Petrovich has populated the compact stage with screens featuring outlines of tree limbs. At first glance, this touch of nature is soothing. But soon the chaotic limbs are as menacing as a Disney movie nightmare through artfully animation by lighting designer Sherrice Mojgani coupled with startling volume enhancement by sound designer Emily Jankowski. Prop design is by Angelica Ynfante. Costume designer Shelly Williams places Lewis in status-conscious Hugh Hefner satin pajamas. Homespun garb for Simon and Jesse is as honest as the menfolk.

By Lynne Friedmann

San Diego,
Lynne Friedmann, based in San Diego, is an award-winning, freelance writer of news, feature articles, and blogs on science, travel, and the arts. Her decades-long passion for theater was sparked as a teen when the Inner City Cultural Center commandeered classroom curricula by bringing classic plays to urban high schools in Los Angeles.