Turbulent times continue to produce turmoil long after the first shocks have ceased to shock. By 1988, the marches, sit-ins and riots were long past, their instigators lauded as heroes, but no longer on hand to protect their autonomously forged manifestos from the inevitable arteriosclerosis that infects the wisest of precepts.
Hambone presents us with five rebels after the cause. There is old Henry, a once-promising football star who now doctors his injuries with gin, voodoo and an Afrocentric rhetoric-fueled hatred of all white people. And we have young Bobbilee, amorally pursuing a personal mythos based in the songs of James Brown. By contrast, the middle-aged Bishop has looked to his own resources for his place in the world, achieving a measure of security and serenity. But Tyrone, his surrogate son, is showing signs of discontent, vowing to get ahead by changing his name to something WASPier. There is also a mysterious stranger from the generation who shaped the secrets that refuse to be buried.
History looks at the masses, and tragedy, at the individual. Author Javon Johnson aspires to tragic grandeur in his irony-laced tale of fathers and sons, and comes surprisingly close to succeeding despite its cozily domestic setting. However nebulous these characters may appear to audiences accustomed to "issue" dramas from Writers Of Color, or extravagant their passions in an age where multiple divorces have made questions of lineage almost irrelevant ( within white subcultures, anyway ) , the path by which Johnson's plot winds its way to its satisfying resolution remains consistent and believable within the context of its own universe.
Director Ron OJ Parson and a cast that includes Freeman Coffey as the gentle Bishop, AC Smith as the peppery Henry, Francois Battiste ( nicely cast against type ) as the defiant Bobbilee, Anthony Fleming III as the sullen Tyrone and Tom Roland as the enigmatic Harrison, forge an engaging humanity that ensures our emotional investment in these at-once familiar and recognizable characters. Also worthy of commendation in an intimate auditorium requiring seamless suspension of disbelief are the contributions of the technical crew in creating a milieu-;in this case, a small-town diner in South Carolina-;of such verisimilitude that we can almost smell the catfish frying on the grill.