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"What Life Has in Store" raises life questions, and laughs

Comelita Payton is Tina. Lorenzo Jones is Maurice.
Comelita Payton is Tina. Lorenzo Jones is Maurice.
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What makes a good marriage? When should couples agree to disagree? What's the nature of forgiveness? Can one really leave a checkered past behind? These questions are raised, along with lots of drama and several dashes of humor in playwright, producer and director Sheena D. Horne's stage play What Life Has in Store, which was staged recently at The Lab Theatre in Alexandria, VA.

Lorenzo Jones and Comelita Payton play husband and wife, Maurice and Tina.
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The play centers around the excellent Comelita Payton as Tina Marie White, mother, wife and struggling alcoholic who dedicates her life to Christ, but finds her past won't let her go. Tina finds herself in a mixed marriage i.e. believer (her) and unbeliever Maurice, played with abundant skill by Lorenzo Jones. Turns out they both met at Alcoholics Anonymous, but that's all they seem to have in common.

Every bit the Black Nationalist, multiple-business-owner Maurice is controlling, domineering and above all doesn't want his wife going "to that church," which he believes is a tool of the White Man to control the Black Man.

If some people in life are personal-emotional-trainers, then the crowd-pleasing Luviee Lenore's Sister Patty provides Tina quite a foil as the archetypal, disapproving "Church Lady." As the play unfolds, we find that Sister Patty and Tina share an unbreakable bond, and a need for mutual forgiveness.

Bianca Whitfield is comic relief personified in the character of Kwi, another member of the church with a checkered past. The scenes between Kwi and new boyfriend (and Maurice's friend) Kevin, played by Matthew Carroll, brought many laughs---especially when the conversation centered around the authenticity of Kevin's Air Jordan sneakers.

Jay Mitchell shows a range of emotions as Jay Rock, the abusive ex-con, ex-boyfriend of Kwi (and another friend of Maurice). Repeatedly referring to himself in the third person, Jay Rock makes his case to Kwi, and to anyone else who will listen, that they should reunite. Jay personified grief, rage and self-aggrandizement in his few scenes.

Alice Anna Shumacher provides a voice of reason as Sister Betsey, a "Good Church Lady" to Sister Patty's "Bad Church Lady" in her many, well done scenes. Tom Ukah, did a good job as the Pastor (and Sister Betsey's son), bringing a quiet dignity to the role.

As a playwright, Horne did a great job misdirecting the audience---Maurice and Tina are divorcing for sure, or are they? Tina's friend Angela (embodied skillfully by Tiffany Strother) is going to seduce Maurice, or is she? And is Maurice and Tina's baby real, the characters and audience want to know (a running joke)? We never see her (he he he).

Circumstances get pretty bleak for Maurice and Tina in the show. Comelita as Tina really connected with the audience when she sang "I Almost Gave Up", in a church scene.

With some tweaking, What Life Has in Store has what it takes to be a classic.

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