Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Azuka Theatre
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Damien J. Wallace, David Bazemore,
and Justin Michael

Photo by Johanna Austin/
Two days after the opening night of Reverie, Philadelphia playwright James Ijames was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for last season's Fat Ham. "Pulitzer prize winning playwright" sets a pretty high expectation, but I am quite certain that no one who sees Reverie will be disappointed.

Reverie begins with a knock at the door. In a bath towel, Jordan runs to answer and is surprised to see a total stranger standing there. He is even more bewildered when the stranger turns out to be his deceased ex-boyfriend's father Paul. It soon becomes clear that Paul is every bit as confounded as Jordan, but he is also determined to talk about his son Lucas. All that connects these two strangers is their shared loss and a book bearing Jordan's address that Paul found among Lucas's things after he passed. The conversation that follows touches on a wide range of subjects and goes late into the night.

That captivating conversation defies expectations. The dialogue between Jordan and Paul feels authentically unguarded. Their interactions undergo a wonderfully nuanced evolution. There is a whiff of magical realism and a fair amount of clever literary analysis. Ijames puts his characters in a place where they are free to express their own self-confidence, vulnerability and compassion–something that is still far too rare for Black men, and Black gay men, on the American stage. Ijames's intricate storytelling reveals something important about our capacity to connect with and rehabilitate one another.

Jerrell Henderson directs Azuka Theatre 's 50th production, featuring an outstanding cast led by Philadelphia favorite Damien J. Wallace. Wallace shows himself as capable onstage as he is in the director's chair (his recent production of Wine in the Wilderness at Philadelphia's EgoPo was superb), drawing raucous laughter and bitter tears from his audience as earnestly struggling parent Paul. David Bazemore is relatable and refreshingly upbeat as Jordan. Bazemore's discussion of cheese demonstrations at Whole Foods is delightful. We first meet the recently departed Lucas in Jordan's flashback; Justin Mitchel is winsome and utterly endearing in the role.

Marie Laster's excellent scenic design draws the audience right into Jordan's Philadelphia apartment. J. Dominic Chacon's subtle and shifting lighting creates low-key moods and high dramatic tension. Ariel Liudi Wang's costumes are spot on.

Authentic and engrossing Reverie is a delicately crafted gem that flawlessly weaves together themes of hope, grief, yearning and regret. Struggling to express themselves and understand each other, Ijames's characters reveal the incredible healing power of meaningful human connection. Since 2016, Azuka Theatre has been offering performances that are Pay What You Decide, so there is no reason you should not go and see this one right now.

Reverie runs through May 22, 2022, at the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street, Philadelphia PA. For information and ticket, please visit or call 215-563-1100.

David Bazemore (Jordan)
Damien J. Wallace (Paul)
Justin Mitchell (Lucas)

James Ijames (Playwright)
Jerrell L. Henderson (Directed)
Marie Laster (Scenic Design)
J. Dominic Chacon (Lighting Design)
Ariel Liudi Wang (Costume Design)
Larry D. Fowler, Jr. /Mr. Cisum (Sound Design)