A Fight For Love, a stage play written by Jose Turner and directed by Duane Shepard, examines this dynamic through the life of a talented, young boxer Michael (Turner), who is looking for love and acceptance from his father Steven (Shepard).
Turner was inspired to write a play that portrayed African-Americans in a more positive light while exploring the sometimes, difficult, relationship between a father and son.
“I really want to bring that family value, positive images and peek folks intellect,” said Turner. “And, have them have a conversation that takes a little piece of my character home with them.”
James was contacted by Turner himself to star in the play as one of the lead characters. James, who is recognized worldwide for his roles in films such as “The Five Heartbeats,” “The Color Purple,” “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” and countless others, spoke on how he came to be a part of this production.
“I don’t know how he found me,” said James. “But, he called me up… asked me if I’d be interested in doing the show.
“It’s just a good [play] about family relations; father and son relationships.”
Shepard, who directed and stars in the play, also spoke about how he came to both direct and play Steven. Shepard has been acting since he was a child and has received numerous awards and accolades nationally and internationally for his one-man play Brother Malcolm X: Reminiscences of a Revolutionary.
He’s also played in Sidney Poitier’s Uptown Saturday Night and made numerous appearances on television soap operas like General Hospital and The Young and the Restless. He’s also starred in TV shows like The Unit, The West Wing, Everybody Hates Chris and many more.
“He [Turner] asked me to come in and do the stage reading, said Shepard. “After doing that, he gave me another call, and asked, would I consider directing.”
“It’s a really important piece, especially about the relationships between young men and their fathers. We don’t have enough of that right now.”
Performed at the Santa Monica Playhouse, A Fight For Love uses the old formula of a father and son who don’t see eye-to-eye. Despite the cliché plot, the play does give a positive glimpse of Black men and women dealing with life circumstances.
Turner gives an enthusiastic performance as tortured boxer, Michael. His performance plays well against Shepard as his father, Steven. Vanoy Burnough plays Ruby, the perky girlfriend of Michael, whose portrayal of a shallow and superficial character comes off well with her ‘squeaky’ voice and prissy mannerisms.
Some of the other performances were either too small or lacked depth altogether. Other performances, such as Hawthorne James as boxing coach, Mr. Lawrence, gave a powerful performance with ‘jabs’ of humor and vulnerability. Other noteworthy performances include Sharon Elliott, Theodore M. Martinez and Antonio Ramirez, who gave a memorable performance as cousin Demetrious.
A Fight For Love is a play that lends itself across all color lines and ages. It manages to capture the essence of the struggles between a parent and child against the life circumstances that come our way. Even with a well-worn plot and some unfleshed characters, it still manages to entertain.
You can catch A Fight For Love at the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street in Santa Monica, CA. For tickets: www.plays411.com/fight. Phone RSVP: (323) 960-5770. You can visit the website at www.afightforlove.com