Jonathan Perkins looked to his mother and grandmother for inspiration for his original play “Blues for Mama,” which begins a three-week run at the Liberty Theatre this weekend.
It’s the third Perkins’ show to be produced at the Liberty.
“I actually wrote it about four years ago and it is the first play I ever wrote,” Perkins said.
The play is about a hard-working woman with two grown children who is forced into early retirement due to a back injury. When Mama stops working, she quickly runs into financial trouble.
Her daughter, Cherrelle, played by Chiara Richardson, “can’t be bothered by hard work.”
Her son, Darryl, played by Jonathan Gilford, has just been released from jail and is trying to get back on track.
One day, a mysterious man named Lester, played by Jerry Klein, is in an accident in front of Mama’s house. Mama, played by Sheila Green-Williams, invites the injured stranger into her home so he can heal.
“She (Mama) is just going to take care of him for a few days,” Green-Williams said.
But when the stranger turns out to be wealthy, he ends up helping Mama solve her money issues.
“He comes in and changes the whole thing,” Green-Williams said.
For plot ideas, “I just looked at my family,” Perkins said. However, in real life, a rich, mysterious stranger never appeared, he said with a laugh.
He came up with the play’s title while listening to his iPod at the gym.
When Nina Simone’s song “Blues for Mama” came on during a workout, Perkins knew he’d found the title to his play.
Perkins tries not to rush the writing process. A play bides its time, waiting for it to be produced, he said. He learned that from Atlanta playwright Pearl Cleage (“Blues for an Alabama Sky,” “Flyin’ West”) at a conference he attended.
“She told me, ‘A play dictates when it’s ready.’ It’s a hard thing to learn.”
This is the first time Perkins has directed Green-Williams.
“I love this play; I love it,” she said. “It’s like he wrote the part for me. It’s my first Jonathan play, and I’ve known him since he was a baby.”
Lester, the mysterious stranger, sees Mama’s family as a chance to change his life.
Jerry Klein, who plays Lester, says his character feels bad that earlier in his life he abandoned his family.
“They endure me,” Klein said about Mama’s family. It helps that Lester is rich and hands out money to both of Mama’s children.
But when Mama and Lester fall in love, changes come to the household.