In almost 20 years of seeing all types of theater, I must say that “Waitin’ 2 End Hell” is one of the best plays I’ve seen depicting the hardship that the Black man goes through when in relationships with the Black woman. As a Black woman I left the play very enlightened about the way that Black men feel about their role in the family and the emotional and physical anguish they go through when they are in a bad relationship. William A Parker, the playwright, is a Black man and he is up front about his and the feelings of other Black men in relationships with Black women, from the opening scene of the play. Parker is well-versed in the telling of the Black experience. Waitin’ 2 End Hell is one of four full-length and nine short plays he has written during his almost 20 years in Black theatre.
Waitin 2 End Hell is having its New York debut at the 47th Street Playhouse at 47th Street and 8th Avenue and has been extended four times. It is not surprising that this production has been extended. It is filled with truths about the relationships that Black men and women share and it is not bashing men. It is explaining their side of many issues that are often looked at mainly from the woman’s point of view.
The Black male characters in the play, Dante, Alvin, Larry and Mark represent the varying ways that a Black man can be. Dante is the loving, generous, faithful husband. Alvin is the Black man who has tried to be married to a Black woman. He has worked, assisted around the house, but got the cold shoulder in the bedroom. He got so desperate he had to seek another companion. Now he is sworn off of Black women and has married an Asian woman. He says Asian women know that their man is the head of the house and he is never told no when he asks for sex. In fact, his wife is constantly kissing and touching him.
Larry is very funny, he has just started seeing a Black woman named Shay. They are both not looking for a commitment. He feels he can’t trust women because his high school sweetheart trapped him by getting pregnant in their senior year. Mark represents the type of Black man Black women need to avoid. He is strictly about sex and nothing else. When faced with commitment, his commitment is to his single status.
Waitin’ 2 End Hell is a play for couples to see, but especially Black couples. During the performance many men and women in the audience were calling out their reactions to some of the “testifying” about the problems with Black relationships. Once the Black man’s case was made, women in the audience were siding with the Black man against their sisters.
This play is superbly entertaining, amazingly hilarious and very insightful. The characters created by Parker are very clear-cut. Besides the four male characters, the audience sees three female characters-Diane, Dante’s unfaithful wife Shay; a woman who is an old friend of Dante, Diane and Alvin and is dating Larry while she yearns for Dante. Angela, the Asian wife of Alvin appreciates her Black man and will please him anyway he wants.
Parker has a mesmerizing way of putting a story together. This production also flows due to the brilliant direction by Woodie King, Jr., who is also presenting the play through the New Federal Theatre.
The cast gives noteworthy performances. Marcus Naylor is versatile and vulnerable as Dante. He goes through so many emotions as he tries to save his marriage. Ron Scott is on the mark as Alvin. He is both a supportive friend to Dante and a man that states straight out what he needs from a marital relationship. O.L. Duke is fantastic as Larry. He is a man who has been wounded in the battlefield of love by a Black woman and has survived to share the lessons he has learned with others. Eric McLendon plays his superficial character of Mark very well. On the woman’s side Thyais Walsh is funny, sexy and a woman on a mission in the role of Shay. Trish McCall is perfect as the unappreciative Diane. Elica Funatsu is moving as Angela, a character who seems to be controlled by her husband, but one finds that there is much more there.
Go and experience Waitin’ 2 End Hell for yourself!
By Linda Armstrong