There’s violence in Theatre Exile’s upcoming show, “The Motherf**ker with the Hat.” Prison. Drugs. Addiction. Infidelity. Add in profanity (lots) and familial dysfunction and you’ve got a stage full of pain.

Director Ozzie Jones, who is Black, chose to cast non-Black actors in all the roles and to set the play, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis, in Kensington.

“Black people are tired of seeing negative shows and depictions about Black people,” said Gregory T. Walker, the Black founder and global creative executive director of the nonprofit The Brothers’ Network. “It allows a people a window into family dysfunction and chaos that is not centered in a Black neighborhood.”

Walker said the Philadelphia-based organization is supporting the production with audience development to widen its reach.

In the play, the lead character, played by actor J Hernandez, returns home from prison, moves in with his childhood sweetheart, and begins his readjustment to life on the outside, working to overcome his addictions. Then, one day, he discovers a strange man’s hat in their apartment. Violence and chaos ensue.

The Brothers’ Network produces theater with the goal of elevating Black directors, producers, and storytellers, lending both financial and audience-development support. The Brothers’ Network has partnered with other theater organizations around the city, staging, for example, a 2013 production of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” with EgoPo Classic Theater in which the casting by race was reversed.

And last summer, The Brothers’ Network worked with Theatre Exile and Theatre in the X to present “Pass Over” by Antoinette Nwandu, hosting the show outdoors in South Philadelphia’s Hawthorne Park en route to its Broadway debut a few weeks later. “Pass Over” told the story of two young Black men overcoming obstacles as they pursue their dreams of a better life.

To Walker, theater provides an opportunity for empathy and awareness.

“People shut their eyes in the dark theater, and we have a release in that process,” he said. “We can move into any framework, and we can see someone else’s history, and someone else’s heritage. We get to be inside of that for 90 minutes. That is really powerful, no matter what the story.”

Feb. 3 through Feb. 27, Theatre Exile, 1340 S. 13th St., Philadelphia. For tickets, information, theatreexile.org or 215-218-4022. Masks and vaccine proof required.

‘This Bitter Earth’ at InterAct

Like many people who discover their passions early in life, David Bazemore, who plays a playwright in InterAct Theatre Company’s production of “This Bitter Earth,” pursued his passion — acting — full throttle … until. Until, after graduating from Philadelphia’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and after landing roles with regional touring companies, appearing in musicals such as “The Scottsboro Boys” and “Dreamgirls,” he realized one day that he actually had no idea who he was, apart from his theater identity.

“I decided I needed to take a step back and develop a life,” he said.

And so Bazemore became a cross-country truck driver (low barrier to entry, relatively good pay, and a chance to see the country). Driving a truck was a self-development school firing on all cylinders. “The biggest thing about truck driving was that I learned to stand up for myself. You are with aggressive guys a lot of the time,” Bazemore said. “Being a truck driver, it’s all about super masculinity — being gay was something that was noticed.”

From there, Bazemore switched to managing the front office in a five-star hotel. “You deal with the divas and everything in between,” he said, adding that he gained confidence in taking charge and in using his personality to connect with others.

But, he said, “the acting bug was starting.”

Bazemore still has a day job, but in Harrison David Rivers’ “This Bitter Earth,” Bazemore comes on stage as Jesse, an introspective Black playwright in a relationship with Neil, a white activist in the Black Lives Matter movement. Neil, played by Gabriel W. Elmore, wants Jesse to join him on the streets, while Jesse thinks his writing is sufficient contribution to the cause. “The conflict arises out of their individual ideologies in addressing racism and social inequality,” Bazemore said.

What particularly appeals to Bazemore is that he doesn’t have to play the caricature of a gay male — “the voice, the sassiness,” he said, explaining. “I had always hoped to play something where my character just happens to be gay, but it’s not at the forefront. This is a love story between two human beings who happen to be gay.”

Through Feb. 20, InterAct Theatre Co. at the Drake, 302 S. Hicks St., Philadelphia. For tickets, information, interacttheatre.org or 215-568-8079. Masks and proof of vaccination required.

A Factory Closes: ‘Skeleton Crew’

In Chestnut Hill, the Stagecrafters Theater Co. takes on Dominique Morisseau’s “Skeleton Crew,” a play about four friends and coworkers in a Detroit automobile stamping factory facing painful challenges to their friendships and way of life when the factory closes.

Feb. 4 through Feb. 20, Stagecrafters Theater, 8130 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia. For tickets, information, thestagecrafters.org or 215-247-9913. Masks and vaccine proof required.

‘The 39 Steps’ in Souderton

Four overachieving actors play 150 characters in “The 39 Steps” at the Montgomery Theater in Souderton. This comedy thriller counts as a whodunit served with a dash of Monty Python and more than a smidgen of Alfred Hitchcock. “The 39 Steps,” by two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award winner Patrick Barlow, is a parody, adapted from a John Buchan 1915 novel and Hitchcock’s 1935 film of the same name. Expect missing fingers, an airplane crash, and other fun chaos, along with an old-fashioned romance.

Through Feb. 20 at the Montgomery Theater, 124 N. Main St., Souderton. For tickets, information, montgomerytheater.org or 215-723-9984. Masks and vaccination proof required.

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