Urban Transition: Loose Blossoms, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. The world premiere of Ron Milner's play is certainly timely: he addresses the impact of gangs and drugs on today's African-American family, showing how they afflict not only poor inner-city teenagers but whole families of varying economic circumstances. Telling the story of a teenage boy who gets sucked into small-time hustling to help his family when his father gets hurt and can't work, Milner creates compelling, realistic characters. But the language is somewhat oversimplified in movie-of-the-week fashion, and at times the play is definitely overwritten. Urban Transition: Loose Blossoms needs some cuts and revising to provide the emotional impact Milner intends.
Still, the ETA ensemble, directed by Woodie King Jr., are all strong performers and team players; the two young men who play E.J. (Demetrius Thorton) and his less stable friend Eric (Lamar) show depth, maturity, and genuine compassion for the struggles their characters face. Some of Milner's most developed writing comes in the scenes between the two boys, and Thorton and Lamar make the words ring with authenticity. Charles Michael Moore is dynamic as the father--a refreshingly positive male role model. But unfortunately Milner's female characters are much less developed and less important--the sisters especially feel superfluous, though the actresses put in fine performances. Overall ETA's production is heartfelt, and with more work the play may be a lasting one.
--Gabrielle S. Kaplan