By Francine Buchner
Written and directed by Robin Givens, Joy in the Morning is a play about a black woman’s journey through love, forgiveness, faith and God.
Performed at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto to a well-attended audience, Givens, also well-known for her own turbulent and highly publicised marriage to champion boxer, Mike Tyson, took to the stage during intermission and shared that she only had two weeks to pull the Toronto show together.
That said and still a work-in-progress, Joy in the Morning included a main cast of seven actors that Givens brought with her from Florida, Detroit, St. Louis, Washington and New York and a100 per cent Canadian musical ensemble cast of about 12, including Toronto’s own, Divine Brown.
The Toronto musical ensemble dressed in all-white and representing God’s angels appeared on stage throughout the performance to carry the plot along, juxtaposed with conveying a deeper historical context of American slavery.
There was a perfect balance between musical ensemble and actors, without which, the two and a half-hour show would be four hours.
When the main character, Gracie, played by Jazsmin Lewis, tragically loses the love of her life, football star Tony, played by Tony Terry, to suicide, she starts to lose her inner child, whom Givens literally represents with a little Gracie character in the play; little Gracie shares with the audience, Gracie’s subconscious thoughts.
In the physical world Gracie’s begins weekly visits with a white psychiatrist named Billy, played by Mark Florida, to help her heal.
However, unbeknownst to Gracie, in the spiritual world God has also assigned her a guardian angel named, Bella, played by Krissy Pizzo.
The audience learns from the musical ensemble that Billy too is suffering from a past of being given away by his mother as an infant to a Black nanny to raise as her own.
Later in the play we are introduced to Billy’s wife (who is Black), played by A’ngela Winbush, that walks in when psychiatrist and patient are overstepping their boundaries; a pivotal moment in the play signifying in life that crossroads of temptation versus deliverance.
Joy in the Morning is a drama, but not without hilarious comedic moments that angel Bella and too-old, too-long, Mama Angel engages in throughout the play.
Notwithstanding, the almost-all Black audience (with the exception of four white people and they were Pizzo’s family from Florida) who added some comedic moments of their own, while interacting and expressing their emotions as Givens took them on a Black woman’s journey of love, forgiveness, faith and love.
Joy in the Morning has a powerful story to tell, indiscriminate of race, creed, religion and sexuality.