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REVIEW: BAT Theatre’s ‘Trouble in Mind’ will delight, move, and stir you as only the best Art can

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By Alia Sinclair

Trouble in Mind is set during rehearsals for a major Broadway production called Chaos in Belleville, an anti-lynching play. The story follows seasoned Black actress Wiletta Mayer (Michelle Blackmon) who has built a career on playing the available second-rate, stereotypical parts available to her, and three other multigenerational Black actors, John Nevin (Hebron Solomon), Millie Davis, (Star Wynn), and Sheldon Forrester (Seyvon West). 

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The cast of the fictitious play also includes two White actors, Bill O’Wray (Ian McIntire), and Judy Sears (Rebecca Reeder), as well as a White Director, Al Manners (Anthony Winkler) and White Stage Manager, Eddie Fenton (Eddy Bingham). 

As rehearsals for the play commence, racial tensions, ego-struggles, and the politics of the entertainment industry collide with the personal experiences and frustrations of everyone involved.

There is not a weak link in the cast, as every single one of the players executes the depth of their particular characters masterfully, with humor and skill.

Blackmon’s Wiletta moves the show forward as the oldest and most experienced member of the cast, giving her younger co-stars some hard-won advice on how to make it in “The Man’s” showbusiness. Blackmon exhibits not only her acting talents in the role, but also those of a singer, moving the audience with gut-wrenching renditions of several emotional songs throughout the play. Blackmon tackles the challenge of being an actor playing an actor playing a role admirably and with distinction.

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Solomon’s portrayal of the talented young upstart Joh Nevin has all the sparkle and shine of a newcomer to the business. As the play goes on, we see Nevin become less enchanted with the business and world, slowly learning that perhaps being young, talented, and willing to work hard is not all that’s required to be a success. Solomon imbues Nevin with loveable naivety and open-hearted sincerity as Nevin blunders to find himself and where he stands. 

Wynn and West bring a zesty energy to their roles as Millie Davis and Sheldon Forrester respectively, landing the humor of the give-and-take interplay between the fictitious cast.

West in particular had the challenge of portraying a character who is both simple in his outlook and complex in his feelings about the racial violence he has witnessed and the compromises he has had to make to continue working in the entertainment industry.

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An unexpected scene-stealer comes in Greg Michaels’ portrayal of the ancient stage-hand Henry. Michaels embodies the stiff limbs, short-term memory loss, and mild confusion of an elderly Irish gentleman who cares deeply and fights fiercely for the right of all to be treated well and with dignity.

Perhaps the most complex character is the White Director Al Manners. At first, Manners seems like the stereotypical sexist, short-tempered theatre man one would expect to see from the time. As the play progresses, however, you are at times left wondering if he is deeply sincere, deeply malevolent, or perhaps blissfully ignorant of his own micro-aggressions and flagrant abuses. Winkler plays all the complexities that keep the audience guessing, weaving impassioned speeches with curt dismissals and wrapping it up in the bow tie of “the-director-who-cares.”

Trouble in Mind will not leave you undisturbed as you attempt to navigate the multilayered complexities of entangling your own internal perspectives on issues that are as poignant in 2024 as they were during the show’s off-Broadway debut in 1955.

With an excellent cast unfolding the story, Trouble in Mind will delight, move, and stir you as only the best Art can. 

Run Time for the show is 2 hours and 10 minutes, including one intermission.

Contains some adult language and adult content, including the N-word.

Performance Schedule

Trouble in Mind runs from Feb. 9, 2024, through Mar. 3, 2024 – Fridays at Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2, (no performance on Friday, February 23, 2024) at the Kennedy Catholic High School theater space (140 S 140th St, Burien, WA 98168; map below).

There is plenty of free parking and the entrance is around the back of the building – follow the signs.

Masks are required at all performances, and will be provided by BAT if you don’t have one.

Friday, February 16, 2024 8 p.m. 
Saturday, February 17, 2024 8 p.m. 
Sunday, February 18, 2024 2 p.m.  
Saturday, February 24, 2024 8 p.m. 
Sunday, February 25, 2024 2 p.m. 
Friday, March 1, 2024 8 p.m.  
Saturday, March 2, 2024 8 p.m. 
Sunday, March 3, 2024 2 p.m. 

Tickets & Coupon

Ticket prices range from $7 to $25:

  • Student tickets are $5. 
  • Enjoy opening weekend deals:
    • Only on Saturday, Feb. 10, all tickets are $13. 
    • Only on Sunday, Feb. 11, which is BAT’s Seven Buck Sunday, admission is just $7. 
  • If ticket pricing is a barrier, reach out to BAT at Tickets@BATtheatre.org – theater is for everyone!

Also, save $3 off for everyone in your party – use the coupon below or the passcode BLOG when you purchase tickets online here (DIRECTIONS: on the ticket website, pick the date, click “Buy Tix” then enter BLOG in the box next to “Apply discount code.”)

For tickets and details, go to www.BATtheatre.org or call 206-242-5180 (message only).

Photos

Below are photos from the play, courtesy Michael Brunk:

Veteran actress Wiletta (Michelle Blackmon) explains the realities of life in the theater to John (Hebron Solomon), a new actor who has grand plans for his theatrical future in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Trouble in Mind.
From left to right, John (Hebron Solomon), Millie (Star Wynn) and Wiletta (Michelle Blackmon) share a teasing moment in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Trouble in Mind.
From left to right, stage manager Eddie (Eddy Bingham) describes how he fixed up his cold-water apartment to Sheldon (Seyvon West) and a skeptical Millie (Star Wynn) in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Trouble in Mind.
Director Al Manners (Anthony Winkler) demands Wiletta (Michelle Blackmon) approach her song differently for the scene they are rehearsing for a new play Chaos in Belleville. Looking on are, from left to right, Sheldon (Seyvon West), Millie (Star Wynn), John (Hebron Solomon) and Judy (Rebecca Reeder) with, seated below the stage, Eddie (Eddy Bingham) in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Trouble in Mind.
Wiletta (Michelle Blackmon) pours out her heart to the doorman, Henry (Greg Michaels), in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Trouble in Mind.
Al Manners (Anthony Winkler) takes Wiletta (Michelle Blackmon) to task in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Trouble in Mind.
Bill (Ian McIntire) rehearses a rousing speech as his character Renard in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Trouble in Mind.
Sheldon (Seyvon West) demonstrates a song he wrote to his co-workers, from left to right, Bill (Ian McIntire), Eddie (Eddy Bingham) and Al (Anthony Winkler) in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Trouble in Mind.
Sheldon (Seyvon West) preaches as his character Sam and, far right, Judy (Rebecca Reeder) reacts with excessive enthusiasm in a Chaos in Belleville rehearsal with, kneeling from left to right, Wiletta (Michelle Blackmon) and Millie (Star Wynn), plus, standing behind Sheldon, John (Hebron Solomon). Seated below the stage, Eddie (Eddy Bingham) supervises as the Chaos in Belleville stage manager in Burien Actors Theatre’s comedy-drama Trouble in Mind.

Trouble in Mind is sponsored by 4Culture through the King County Lodging Tax and the City of Burien.

Alia Sinclair is a writer residing in SeaTac. She is passionate about the arts and connecting people through the written word, and is the founder and editor-in-chief of Patchwork Mosaic magazine for creatives.

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