Simpatico Theatre Project presents Obie Award-winning Milk Like Sugar by Kirsten Greenidge, an engrossing drama that is both a cautionary tale and a societal indictment, with a superb cast. Greenidge can write what sounded to me to be pitch-perfect dialogue, and Alan Radway directs the ensemble with respect and a clever use of the Adrienne Theatre's Skybox space.
Three teenage African American girls, living in a ghettoized community in any American city, are sworn friends: Annie (Nastassja Baset) with the long braids, Talisha (Melanie Lawrence) with the big natural, and Margie (Danielle Lenee) with the smooth do. Going to a high school that has abandoned them, going home to parents who have abandoned them, going out with boyfriends who mistreat them, they are left to their own devices.
It is sad and unsurprising that Margie is pregnant; the other girls make a pact to quickly get pregnant, too, so they can all have babies together. Their notion of motherhood doesn't get beyond wanting a camouflage-print stroller: "I bet Beyoncé has a stroller like that. She fierce." Their ignorance is terrible, both for their own lives and for the next generation.
A new girl at school, Keera (Curtisha Starks), offers an alternative to prized cellphones and tattoo artist Antwoine (Walter DeShields): religion, churchgoing, family dinners, father-daughter dances - only it will all turn out to be heartbreaking fantasy.
Annie's sex interest, Malik (Brandon Pierce), who also is burdened with a nonfunctioning mother and a vanished father, wants out and wants more: His telescope shows him how big the cosmos is. When he offers Annie a glimpse of the beauty out there, she treats it as a joke.
Annie's nasty mother, Myrna (Kimberly S. Fairbanks), is bitter about her life, having had her first child while she was in junior high; she is angry about her job as a nighttime cleaner in an office building where she uses the computers to write her stories (I found this somewhat confusing, because Annie implies, with scorn, that her mother has forgotten how to read). Myrna forgets her daughter's 16th birthday and finds being a mother oppressive. She tells Annie she's worthless, while Annie's best friend, pleading with her to honor her promise to get pregnant, tells her "You all I got."
These are kids in dead-end lives. Milk Like Sugar is a grim commentary on an urban reality that is well-worth our attention.
Milk Like Sugar
Presented by Simpatico Theatre Project at the Skybox at the Adrienne Theatre,
2030 Sansom St., through March 8. Tickets: $10-$25 215-423-0254 or email@example.com