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Play Takes On Race, Starting With Its Title

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The cast. Top row, left to right: David Berkenbilt as "Yaveni," Lolita-Marie as "Mattie," DeJeanette Horn as "Rawl." Bottom Row: Aeshia Brown as "Matoka," Kecia Campbell as "Aunt Cora," and Marissa Moody as "Joyce."
Port City Playhouse
The cast. Top row, left to right: David Berkenbilt as "Yaveni," Lolita-Marie as "Mattie," DeJeanette Horn as "Rawl." Bottom Row: Aeshia Brown as "Matoka," Kecia Campbell as "Aunt Cora," and Marissa Moody as "Joyce."

People in the theater community sometimes call it "The No Play," so they don't have to say the title. But actors at the Port City Playhouse say it's important to the integrity of the show that audience members know what they are getting into.

"I say the title is 'No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs.' Startled reaction," says actor David Berkenbilt. "It's written by an African-American playwright, based on signs that he saw as a kid," he says.

Yes, the title is shocking, says director Frank Pasqualino. That's the point.

"It's a heavy show when you think about all the themes that are behind it: prejudice, racism," he says. "We hit a lot of those things, and we hit them right square in the face with that title, you know?"

The drama captures the raw brutality of discrimination in the Deep South, a topic Pasqualino says is perfectly timed for Black History Month.

Lolita-Marie Clayton, a black woman, plays the leading lady. She knows the title is provocative, but she doesn't want it to distract from the performance.

"The heart of the play has to do with family dynamics and surviving tragedy and the willingness to sacrifice -- common topics, no matter what sex, gender, race, nationality, whatever."

The play opens at The Lab at Convergence on Friday night.

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