Broke-ology, The Lyric Stage Company of Boston

The Lyric Stage, March 25 – April 23, 2011

As a younger William King with his beloved wife Sonia (Patrice Jean-Baptiste), eagerly expecting their first child (PHOTO: Mark S. Howard)

An older William, playing dominoes with his grown sons Malcolm (Monty Cole) and Ennis (David Curtis) (PHOTO: Mark S. Howard)

Introducing Chauncey, the garden gnome, to the sweet sounds of the Temptations as Sonia's spirit (Patrice Jean-Baptiste) looks on (PHOTO: Mark S. Howard)

Deperately wishing Sonia were more than a memory (PHOTO: Mark S. Howard)

Critical Response

Johnny Lee Davenport (William King) gives a bravura performance as the qidowed father of two young men, struggling to retain his dignity and sense of self as his Multiple Sclerosis-stricken body continually fails him.
—Nancy Grossman, (March 28, 2011)

“[Broke-ology has a] first-rate cast. Patrice Jean-Baptiste is appealing as King’s feisty, sexy wife who we see initially as a newlywed expecting their first child and living in their first house but then as a figment of William’s dementia. David Curtis brings high energy yet human depth to Ennis, the jokester in the family but the one also who is beginning to grasp how very much he is stuck at a lower rung in life than his intelligence calls for. Monty Cole is excellent as the more subdued brother who, while comfortable in the old neighborhood, has an itch to move on.

They are satellites, however, and appropriately so, to Johnny Lee Davenport’s heart-breaking performance as a once strong man who feels himself losing his physical and mental capacities at every turn.”
—Kay Bourne, Boston EDGE (March 28, 2011)

“The Lyric Stage Company’s production of Nathan Louis Jackson’s unabashedly sentimental play hits home, thanks to a powerhouse performance by Davenport and sensitive direction by Benny Sato Ambush. . . . Davenport makes William’s yearning for [his wife] so palpable it cracks the heart.

This fine actor, known for his performances in the works of Shakespeare, has lately been seen to good effect in contemporary plays. He was riveting in a small part as a grieving father in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Bob Glaudini’s ‘Vengeance Is the Lord’s’’ in November, and shone in the central role in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s ‘Neighbors’’ at Company One in January. Now, in ‘Broke-ology,’ Davenport excels again.

Clearly, he’s on a roll. Can’t wait to see what he does next.
—Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe (March 29, 2011)

“In one lovely scene, William, played wonderfully by local stage veteran Johnny Lee Davenport, dances to the Temptations while the spirit of his dead wife looks on.

While “Broke-ology” (directed by Benny Sato Ambush) is a realistic “kitchen-sink” drama, the emotional high points arrive when it leaves reality for the surreal sphere of dreams and fantasies. When William recalls his dreams, imagines his wife still alive or has a heart-to-heart talk with a statue (a garden gnome), the play lifts off. In fact, the few times Patrice Jean-Baptiste (as wife Sonia) joins William onstage, it reaches a whole other level.
—Daniel Gerwertz, The Boston Herald: The Edge (March 30, 2011)

“. . . it’s William [Johnny Lee Davenport] and Sonia [Patrice Jean-Baptiste] who are at the heart of Broke-ology. Though William never really articulates it, the audience can sense his disappointment with life, that he and Sonia never got to live the life she describes so optimistically in the beginning. The imagined conversations he has with Sonia are heartbreaking and a scene where he tells his sons about a dream he had about her brought me to tears. It makes you sad that William never got out of that apartment or that job, that he never lived the life he hoped for.”
—Jonathan Clark, Dig Boston (March 30, 2011)

“Veteran Shakespearean actor Johnny Lee Davenport delivers big time in his oversized portrait of William, a lion of a man, howling with rage at the loss of his powers. He loves his two boys ferociously, and misses his wife even more.

Anyone who has cared for a beloved elder will be reaching for the tissues to watch Davenport stumble around his familiar kitchen, unable to find the bottle of milk in the refrigerator and pour a glass for himself. Davenport’s voice is a supreme barometer of emotional convictions, from fear to determination, to railing against the illness that he cannot control, his large physical presence adding to the characterization.
—Iris Fanger, The Patriot Ledger (April 7, 2011)

“The golden bullion of Broke-ology is Davenport, whose galvanism and stature, even when stumbling, make William’s encroaching helplessness hard to bear.”
—Carolyn Clay, The Boston Phoenix (April 8, 2011)

“Beyond this conflict though, the heart of ‘Broke-ology’ is the story of William, Ennis and Malcolm’s father, played with great pathos and sensitivity by Johnny Lee Davenport. William prematurely loses his wife Sonia, portrayed with both grace and realism by Patrice Jean-Baptiste.  He never comes to terms with this loss and his devastation is exacerbated in his old age, as more losses pile up. Illness and wear are causing him to lose his physical and his mental facilities, and now he may even be losing the aid and comfort of his ambitious youngest son. Watching Davenport’s William struggle to parent his sons as they struggle with each other over who will shoulder the burden of keeping him alive, is as heart-rending and cathartic an experience as you are likely to have in a theater.”
—Jason Rabin, Blast Magazine (April 10, 2011)

“The Lyric Stage production . . . centers on Johnny Lee Davenport’s solid performance as William. The talented actor presents a nuanced portrait of a proud man in pain, supplying some welcome flickers of anger and frustration when the subject of doctors comes up.”
—Bill Marx, The Arts Fuse (April 12, 2011)

“The performance of Johnny Lee Davenport as William King is the glue that holds this piece together. Davenport, a much heralded local actor, delivers the performance of his impressive career as the patriarch faced with illness, death and the possibility of once again seeing his beloved wife.”
—Nick Dussault, Metro (April 13, 2011)

Johnny Lee Davenport plays a larger than life pater familias whose wife dies early in their marriage. Although he raises their two sons, he never ‘moves on; with his life. Now that the two boys are grown and MS is ravaging his body, he thinks more and more about her, longing to be by her side. . . . Director Benny Sato Ambush builds the momentum by having Davenport become more sonorous as his body weakens.
—Beverly Creasey, Boston Arts Review (April 16, 2011)

“The beating heart of the show is Johnny Lee Davenport as William King. Scenes in which he pantomimes The [Temptations] choreography and his riff about what would happen to fat old Santa had he landed his sleigh in the Bloods or Crips neighborhood are hilarious and reveal his playfulness and gentle nature. . . . There’s no denying the emotional toll the debilitating MS takes on a proud man. His love for his sons and his pride in who he was in his prime are clear.  In one brief scene in Act 2, portrayal of a man’s longing for his deceased wife and humiliation over his physical deterioration results in the most overwhelmingly raw emotional moment of anguish I’ve ever seen portrayed on stage. I could literally feel the air sucked out of the room by the implosion.”Davenport’s
—Paul A. Tamburello, Jr., (April 20, 2011)

“For two hours, Boston’s beloved star, Johnny Lee Davenport, captivates as William King, a deeply grieving, widowed, hardworking father of two sons who is stricken with multiple sclerosis and its debilitating side effects. Although his wife, Sonia, has been dead for 15 years, he loves her with all his heart and is unreconciled to her loss. He frequently has visions of her, cuddling with her, talking with her, that gnaw at our souls.”
—Sheila Barth, The Theater Mirror (April 2011)

Johnny Lee Davenport is absolutely powerful in the role of the father as he suffers through the death of his wife and the desire to keep the peace with his two sons.”
—Guy H. Giampapa, Walpole Community TV (April 2011)


Multimedia Preview

Click here to listen to Johnny’s interview with Radio Boston about the show