‘Brick City’ takes journey through high school angst

By LIZ KEILL

UNION, NJ – Premiere Stages at Kean University presents a new play by Nicole Pandolfo. “Brick City” is an exploration of two seniors in high school and their search for meaningful lives, while their teacher/mentor, Veronica, is also turning her life around.

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There are a number of loose ends in this story, yet it shows each character grappling with reality and life’s challenges. Darnell (Chris Grant) is a promising basketball player who hopes to go to Syracuse University. But he’s visited by his cousin, Rogelio (Rafael Benoit) who has several schemes to make money. None of this bodes well for Darnell.

“He’s a thug” exclaims his classmate, Jessie. Jessie (Madison Ferris) is in a wheelchair, defensive but whip smart as she clashes with Darnell during their after-school sessions with their tutor. Ferris maneuvers with her wheelchair in a way that you know she’s always there and in control. (She was Laura in the Broadway production of “The Glass Menagerie” with Sally Field, also played from a wheelchair. The actress has muscular dystrophy.)  Nevertheless, she delivers a powerful performance. In this play, the character has lost her ability to walk because of a car accident.

Jacqueline Correa as Veronica tries to keep the two students focused on their courses so they can finish high school and move on with their lives.  All four actors in this tightly woven plot deliver sympathetic performances. You can see how easily lives can go wrong.

Playwright Pandolfo said she based the script on her own experiences in high school, where she said she was fortunate to learn despite the limitations of her school environment. She’s delivered a searing portrayal of the difficult road these two must follow, whether it’s physical, psychological or financial.

Jessi D. Hill has directed this taut, timely production, with stark set design by Bethanie Wampol Watson and lighting by Greg Solomon.

“Brick City” continues at Premiere Stages, located on the campus of Kean University in Union, through Sept. 23.  For tickets call 908-737-7469 or visit premierestageskean.com.