"Reflections" bowed in 2011, shortly after Oliver Thomas was released from his 37-month sentence in federal prison in 2010. It is not at all apparent that much dialog was added to the new script titled "Reflections 2: Off Probation and Ready to Talk" other than the insertion of two new guest stars, former Orleans Parish School Board president Gail Glapion and former City Councilperson Cynthia Willard Lewis, both of whom play each other.
Written and directed by Anthony Bean, the work was widely attended at its inception at the Anthony Bean Community Theater by many of his well-wishers three years ago. This time, however, the crowds are smaller. Maybe it’s because the message he is delivering is the same one he delivered three years ago. Perhaps, the novelty of a disgraced former Councilperson who might have been mayor had he not been caught has worn thin.
Thomas, of course, plays himself, while Gwendolyne Foxworth plays his wife Angelle. This is a very tough piece. It forces Thomas to examine the meaning of his own life and in the course of the work to focus on some of the forgotten black men, who are incarcerated, some for much more violent crimes, but mostly drug offenses.
Thomas does confess that he was wrong to take the paltry sum of money ($15,000) for which he lost everything. Charles Bosworth, as the narrator, acts as both a reporter and a commentator on the life of this public servant, who fell upon his own petard.
Yet there is a paucity of remorse in this work by Thomas. He is never really seen as a martyr, but as an unfortunate character, who made a mistake.
The fact is that the scenes with him in prison, dealing with the young toughs who look up to him are among the best in the entire show. Where the play misses the mark is in its lack of updating. The new title indicates Thomas might be revealing more than his past and give insights into his future plans. Where is he dedicating his energies today? How is he coping with his status as a convicted felon? Has his marriage survived the tenuous period following his release and the completion of his parole?
Oddly enough, Thomas’ acting in other Anthony Bean pieces seemed more real and less forced than when he played himself in "Reflections 2." Perhaps the vicissitudes of dealing with the consequences of his own actions make this a more difficult role for him to play. He has proven to be a capable actor in the past; perhaps his next role won't carry as much emotional baggage for him.
"Reflections2: Oliver Thomas - Off Parole and Ready to Talk" continues at the Anthony Bean Community Theater, 1333 S. Carrollton Avenue, now through April 27. Performances are set for Fridays and Saturdays at a reported 8:00 p.m. start (8:15 is the usual time the curtain rises). Sunday matinees are set to start at 2:00 p.m., but rarely begin past 2:10.