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The Keen Company Presents "Surely, Goodness, and Mercy" at the Clurman Theatre
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The Keen Company Presents "Surely, Goodness, and Mercy" at the Clurman Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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The Keen Company
Jonathan Silverstein, Artistic Director

Surely, Goodness, and Mercy

By Chris Hutchinson

Directed by Jessi D. Hill

At the
Clurman Theatre
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street

Sarita Covington, Jay Mazyck, Brenda Pressley
Courtney Thomas, Cezar Williams

Scenic Design: Lee Savage
Costume Design: Nicole Wee
Lighting Design: Devora Kengmana
Sound Design: Sadah Espii Proctor
Props: Addison Heeren
Fight Director: Paul Molnar
Production Manager: Rebecca Key
Press: David Gersten & Associates
Casting: Calleri Casting
Production Stage Manager: Jana Llynn

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 10, 2019 Matinee

As a longtime fan of the Keen Company, I was still surprised and impressed at the extraordinary quality of Chisa Hutchinson’s play at the Clurman, Surely, Goodness, and Mercy. With only four onstage actors, and one offstage, I did not want this affecting play to end. Tino, played by Jay Mazyck, a youthful actor to watch in the coming seasons, lives with his very angry and depressed aunt, Alneesa (Sarita Covington), who promised his dying mother she would raise him in her Newark, NJ apartment. Alneesa is abusive in punishment and language, but somehow Tino has the potential to excel in school, that is, when he gets sleep and nourishment. Fortunately for Tino, he has two new support systems, one the school lunch attendant, Bernadette (Brenda Pressley), and a girl in his class, Deja (Courtney Thomas). The characters interact on a multi-level stage, with an apartment couch and table, a lunchroom reception area, a hospital bed, and a church. Props are essential to delineate space, and music as well, such as a church organ, not to mention the digital sound of an intravenous drip.

Alneesa is the play’s antagonist, wanting to be with a man, not a nephew, wanting to use her money and time on herself, wanting her privacy, and reminding Tino how he was not on her wish list. He was the target of all her frustration. Also frustrated in this impoverished, urban neighborhood, was Bernadette, who ordered the children about, using her position and power to dole out portions and add-ons as a sense of identity. But, as the play unfolded, Bernadette realized her own potential and poignantly bonded with Tino in a gorgeous series of vignettes. When Tino was hungry, she abundantly filled his lunch tray. When she became seriously ill, Tino came to her bedside to read from his bible. And then there was Deja, more savvy and sassy than Tino, but they, too, bonded and even went to church together. Not to make this sound syrupy, it was rather handled with pathos. Deja gave Tino strength, and Tino gave Deja comfort. Cezar Williams provided the piped in live voice of the preacher and principal, as one led the service and the other led the school. Both voices were imbued with muscular confidence.

Lighting, sound, sets, and costumes were perfect. I look forward to the upcoming Keen Company season.

Jay Mazyck and Courtney Thomas
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Brenda Pressley and Courtney Thomas
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Sarita Covington and Jay Mazyck
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

See a Testimonial of Daniela Trattoria's New Redesign.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at