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May 24, 2024

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Catch “Gun & Powder” Before It Closes On May 5th

by James & Talia Dombrowski

Once again the best Off Broadway Playhouse in America, the Tony Award Winning Best Regional Theatre in American – The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ – has brought to the stage a production hoping to go from the Paper Mill to Broadway.

“Gun & Powder: The Legend of the Sisters Clarke” was written by a woman who can only be called a modest genius, Angelica Cheri. The story is based on relatives of Angelica Clarke who were born shortly after slavery had ended in America and the perils of share cropping in the south on land owned by white men.

Hardly more than serfdom in America, they were faced with losing their land to a white owner because the agreement was to make payments based on the yield of cotton grown irregardless of weather conditions or other farming disasters. The sisters decided to become bandits to get the money needed to pay the ransom to keep their mother in her home.

Photo by Jim Dombrowski: Talia Dombrowski chats with Liisi LaFontaine who plays Martha Clarke. Talia asks Liisi how the jealousy and competition portrayed by the divergent characters of the two sisters should be seen.  “I just wanted to keep the family together.  We were black women posing as white women to help mom keep her home,” noted Liisi.  

The story line of deception and crime mixed in with a interracial love story is complicated.  The two sisters have a 180 degree difference in the storyline. The ability of tricking the white boyfriend to fall in love with a black woman who he thinks is white allows the audience to ponder if he would truly love her if he knew she was black. This theme is often generated in movies and plays based on wealth. Does the woman love the rich man or is it about money over love? Julia Robert’s in “Pretty Woman “ makes a case for a truly unique juxtaposition in the plot as she questions herself as can a millionaire truly love me for who I am. As is often the case in Hollywood, a beautiful ending is seen in Pretty Woman as opposed to this real life story in Gun & Powder.

Love and race is mixed in with a solid musical score that keeps the audience wondering what will happen next.

Next up at the Paper Mill is “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” playing at The Paper Mill from June 5-30.

Photo by Jim Dombrowski: Angelica Cheri, who is the playwright and also the author of “Gun & Powder”, has a heartfelt conversation with Talia Dombrowski. Angelica also wrote the lyrics for all the songs. Angelica is a graduate of UCLA and received her Masters Degrees from Columbia & NYU.  A true genius who is not afraid to handle tough topics of race, love & family. The plight of Afro-Americans after the Civil War as Share Croppers in the South and being free slaves and descendants of slaves is a history that needs not to be forgotten. Talia an honor student at Paramus Catholic and biracial found the show intriguing and inspiring. As her dad, I’m truly proud of her awareness of life.