Ruby Dee & Gertrude Jeanette

*There was just as much excitement going on behind the scenes at the Harlem School of the Arts keeping the Hadley Players on pins and needles as there was in their latest offering “Gladys’ Dilemma.”  

By the time all the confusion was sorted out the cast only had 12 weeks to learn their cues, lines, positions and to rehearse.  Yet the show must go on and the show was up and running under the  stage management of Sirlouis Jones and directorship of Ward Nixon for their May 28-June 20 run.

Written by the 96-year-old Gertrude Jeannette (founder and CEO Emeritus of the H.A..D.L.E.Y. Players), Gladys’ Dilemma  features Valarie Tekosky (Gladys Perkins) who gives a believable performance as the troubled Gladys.   The other cast members consist of Rodney Sheley (Leroy Perkins), Curtis L. Williams (Elsworth Perkins), Nzingtha Smith (Gail Perkins) and Colette Bryce (Margo Spencer).  

What would you do if your daughter told you she was pregnant and while you are happy for her there is a secret you have that is so consuming that you fear telling your family?  This is Gladys’ dilemma.  Gladys and her husband Leroy are happily empty nesting preparing to go on vacation and enjoy the single couple lifestyle.  Leroy is spending less and less time at his mortuary business gradually turning over the reigns of the family business to his son.  Gladys lives a carefree lifestyle going to fashion events, hair salons and masseuses with her upscale high society snotty best friend Margo.  Colette Bryce has fun with her character Margo turning up the ‘bitchy meter’ a  full 100 degrees.   Margo uses every opportunity to deliver a catty zinger to her friend Gladys who tolerates her long time friend with controlled humor.   Life is good for Gladys who has no medical problems she knows of and then her doctor rocks her world.  Gladys is pregnant at age 47.

No one takes the news well, not Leroy, not Margo and not her daughter Gail who suddenly finds her own pregnancy being overshadowed by her mother’s pregnancy.  The idea of she and her mother delivering at the same time is too much to bear.  The Perkins happy go lucky son Elsworth is the only one who thinks its good news.  Gladys herself is so stunned she does not know what to do with the unexpected tidings.   She faces a moral dilemma: if she opts to abort the baby is she a murderer?   If she keeps the baby does she now face a medical dilemma, the risk of birthing a down syndrome child.   Then there is the age factor.  Her husband is already in his early 50s and has been looking forward to being free of children and the responsibility of raising kids.  He is looking forward to early retirement and the honeymoon he missed when he and Gladys first started off in life together.  The idea of starting over terrifies him.  Rodney does a competent job portraying Gladys’ concerned  husband as does Curtis L. Williams as their ebullient son.

Time is running out.  Does Gladys terminate or keep the baby?  The answer may become the audiences dilemma.

This reviewer went to see the show on the third day of its performance so the play had not quite found its footing and was still in need of tightening up.  Given the amount of time the cast and crew had to pull the production together this may be remedied by plays end.  Yet the subject matter is an important issue.  One which some women who initially chose careers over starting a family have come to an age where family supersedes career.  In 2008 alone there were more than 106,000 live births in the United States to women ages 40 through 44, and 7,666 live births to women 45 to 54.  Many who had normal and healthy births.  However, the incidence of Down Syndrome is estimated at 1 per 800 to 1,000 births and is statistically more common in older mothers.
Costume designer June Terry did an outstanding job with the costumes which were truly stylish and beautiful.  Meredith L. Waddy did a wonderful job with lighting particularly during the dream sequence.  Among the audience was veteran actress and Oscar nominee Ruby Dee who is a big supporter of the Hadley Players productions.  

“Gladys’ Dilemma” is being housed at the Harlem School of the Arts, located at 647 Nicholas Avenue (off 142nd Street) in Manhattan.   Interested parties can call (212) 368-9314 or visit the Hadley Players website at www.hadleyplayers.com for tickets.