Review: ‘Land of Promiscuity’ by Soul-Satisfying Productions at DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival

Family history, like any history, has a tendency to repeat itself. Filled with pathos, generational curses, and touches of humor, Land of Promiscuity, directed by LaRay McDaniel and written by novelist/playwright Sherryle Kiser Jackson, is a magnificent evening of church-themed drama. The emotionally laden Land of Promiscuity, performed at the DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival, brought visceral and audible reactions from the audience throughout.

Denascia Salley (Rebi) and Lorenzo Jones (Will) in 'Land of Promiscuity.' Photo by LaRay McDaniel.
Denascia Salley (Rebi) and Lorenzo Jones (Will) in ‘Land of Promiscuity.’ Photo by LaRay McDaniel.

Land of Promiscuity follows the troubled yet passionate Rebecca Lucas, aka Rebi (Denascia Salley), who returns to her hometown after her mother’s passing and reunites with her childhood friend Will Donovan (Lorenzo Jones), now the Assistant Pastor of Grace Apostle Church. The settling of her mother’s estate brings about secrets involving Will’s father, Pastor WH Donovan (Marvin Bowser), her mother Able, and her sister Gail (Tercola Durham). In addition, Land of Promiscuity throws in a love triangle between Rebi, Will and Will’s squeeze Veronica Deeds (Tanisha Cardwell).

Sherryle Kiser Jackson based Land of Promiscuity on her same-titled novel (there are two other novels about these characters, “Path to Promise” and “The Promised Land”). Jackson’s theme she put forth before curtain was: “If you’re not headed to your promise, you’re headed to promiscuity.”

As the show unfolded over three acts, Land of Promiscuity was highlighted by Salley’s excellent liturgical dancing to songs such as Gospel recording artist Kirk Franklin’s “Imagine Me” and Carmen Calhoun’s “Ready to Move.” The opening scene, “I Wanna Dance” featured Young Rebecca (Nylah Jackson) dancing to “Candles in the Sun” by Miguel. Ameen Butler Jr. played Young Will in that scene. Choreographer Rebecca Scruggs and Sheila Jedowski of Dance Depot (Waldorf, Maryland) helped bring the dances to life.

The best scenes involved Jones, Salley, and Cardwell, as Cardwell’s Veronica Deeds used every weapon in her defensive arsenal to prevent Rebi from moving in on her man. Jones effectively portrayed Will as a man who not only was romantically attracted to Rebi, but also her close, lifelong friend. Jones had a convincing scene as a pastor at the pulpit, that was good enough to arouse audience participation–call and response style.

Durham displayed Gail Lucas’ depressing story arc convincingly. Her scenes with Salley brought out the heartbreak evident in her storyline.

Denascia Salley (Rebi), Lorenzo Jones (Will), and Tanisha Cardwell (Veronica) in 'Land of Promiscuity.' Photo by LaRay McDaniel..
Denascia Salley (Rebi), Lorenzo Jones (Will), and Tanisha Cardwell (Veronica) in ‘Land of Promiscuity.’ Photo by LaRay McDaniel.

Bowser had a gut-punch of a scene with Jones late in the play. The revelations brought forth by Bowser’s character at one point brought Jones’ Will to his knees.

Johnny Rossettos Jr. provided comic relief as funeral home director Randall Hughes. Randall’s lame attempt at spending the night with Rebi provided many laughs in early scenes.

McDaniel’s direction was crisp, and good enough that occasional audio glitches (the actors wore head mics) were countered with ad-libs and raucous audience laughter. Land of Promiscuity is an engaging introduction to the world of Jackson’s unforgettable characters, Will and Rebi. Be on the lookout for Jackson’s stage and film work.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with no intermission.

Land of Promiscuity, by Soul-Satisfying Productions performing at The DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival, ran for one night only, June 28, 2019, at the African American Civil War Museum, 1925 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC. For more information and tickets to other DC Black Theatre & Arts Festival productions, go online.

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