Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Sunset Baby
Azuka Theatre
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule

Also see Rebecca's review of The Mystery of Irma Vep - A Penny Dreadful

Victoria Aaliyah Goins and Steven Wright
Photo by Johanna Austin
Victoria Aaliyah Goins smoulders, crackles and burns as Nina, the heroine of Dominique Morriseau's Sunset Baby. This is the story of a brilliant black woman who fights to maintain her independence in the face of both overwhelming structural racism and the well-intentioned men who would render her powerless. Goins performs with a gritty authenticity that makes Nina remarkably sympathetic. Director Amina Robinson's stellar production opens the Azuka Theatre's 20th season with a spark.

The plot centers around some letters Nina's mother, a political activist named Ashanti X, left to Nina in her will. The letters have acquired some unexpected monetary value, but Nina is not certain she wants to sell her mother's legacy to the highest bidder. Nina's estranged father Kenyatta (Steven Wright exudes weary gravitas), to whom the letters were addressed but never sent, comes out of the woodwork hoping to read them for himself. Her boyfriend Damon (Eric Carter) wants them sold to fund a long imagined international relocation for the couple. Carter is deep and cool and, like so many men, suddenly dangerous. Sunset Baby is more driven by character than plot, but there is still a lot going on.

Things play out in a way that is satisfying and emotionally wrought. Robinson's clever direction takes full advantage of the many instances in which the audience's expectations are turned on their heads. For instance, Nina and Damon are professional thieves, posing as prostitute and pimp to rob expecting Johns. We keep waiting for that to have some sort of negative consequence, but by the end it becomes clear that robbing guys is just a job for these two. In the end it is our expectation that seems silly; in a chronically violent world, violence is just a means to an end. Sunset Baby takes us down those unexpected roads again and again.

Larry D. Fowler, Jr.'s excellent sound design allows for layering of music and of voice. Ariel Wang's costume designs are well made and spot on. Dirk Durossette's set design is simple but evocative. Like Goins herself, this production is firing on all cylinders.

Azuka Theatre's Sunset Baby runs through November 24, 2019, at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, 302 S Hicks St, Philadelphia PA. To reserve your seat, go to

Victoria Aaliyah Goins: Nina
Steven Wright: Kenyatta
Eric Carter: Damon

Dirk Durossette: Scenic Design
Lily Fossner: Lighting Design
Ariel Wang: Costume Design
Larry D. Fowler, Jr.: Sound Design
Avista Custom Theatrical, LLC: Properties
Jamel Baker: Stage Manager
Lauren Tracy: Production Manager
Joe Daniels: Technical Director
Satchel Williams: Assistant Director
Gray Rogers: Assistant Stage Manager
Flannel & Hammer: Scenic Construction