One week before Florida A&M’s homecoming, the university’s Essential Theatre brought an event-filled Broadway comedy to campus – “Chicken & Biscuits.”
The play, which made its debut Wednesday, is directed by Luther D. Wells, a theater professor at FAMU, and performed by students.
In the play, the actors modernized and revealed what happens in many Black church families, such as secrets, envy among siblings, death, love and sexuality. While performing all these tasks, they left the audience applauding and even prompting them to their feet for standing ovations.
“Chicken & Biscuits” is about a well-respected grandfather who left a significant impact on his family and died with a secret that would later be revealed to his family. The daughters of the late grandfather faced many odds living opposite lifestyles. Banetta, the older sister, played by A’zhariya Vaughan, is married to pastor Reginald, played by Todd Bellamy II, making her the first lady, well-educated with three degrees and two beautiful children.
Beverly, played by Jade Livingston, is the baby sister, a single mother, a beautician and a college dropout. The sisters have their differences at the beginning of the play and can’t get along. They find out they have much more in common than expected toward the end.
The pastor is a noble man who tries to keep the peace between the family while the family has its chaotic moments. He makes sure to let his wife know that she can depend on him to nurture and love her through everything she’s going through.
The children from the two siblings, Banetta and Beverly, are all going through life changes, understanding that it’s OK to vent and talk about problems they might face rather than just dealing with them alone.
Banetta has two kids, Simone, played by Destiny Jackson, and Kenny, played by Tyler Joseph. Simone is going through a rough patch after getting cheated on by her husband. She dealt with depression. Kenny is a gay man who is afraid of talking about his lifestyle with his mother even though his family is aware. His mother wants him to keep it a secret from other family members.
Beverly has one daughter, La’Trice, played by Kashayla Horne. La’Trice is a 15 year old on the verge of turning 16 in the next few weeks. She walks around with her head held high, a smile on her face and great energy, but under that smile, she’s going through father issues. She says in the play how quality time can’t be bought through child support; she wonders what kind of person she would be if her father were in the picture.
Jeanine Tuffet, A STEM major attending “Chicken & Biscuits,” said this was the first play she’s ever been to, and she didn’t expect to laugh as much as she did.
“This exceeded my expectations. I laughed from the moment I walked in until the end; I loved all the actors. I think it was a great performance,” Tuffet said.
Vanessa Brown, a FAMU alumna, said her expectations were high because the campus is known for having top-shelf actors who have a great way of performing real-life situations.
“I enjoyed the first lady, but it felt so real because that is the typical Black family. We normally find out about daddy’s secrets at the funeral, but it was authentic,” Brown said.
The play will be performed now through Oct. 23 at the Charles Winter Wood Theatre. Box office tickets are free for students with Rattler ID. For more information on tickets and show times, you can visit Famu.edu/essentialtheatre.