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Branches From the Same Tree

Branches From the Same Tree

At the Paul Robeson Theatre

They’re having a whole lot of fun over at the Paul Robeson Theatre in the African American Cultural Center with Branches From the Same Tree, an unapologetically over-the-top soap opera of a show with plenty of family secrets, smoldering grudges, and plot twists to keep things humming along.

Mama, played with wit and vigor by Sanda Gilliam, can’t seem to get her two grown daughters to move out of the house. She’s done everything any self-respecting compulsively controlling matriarch can do, including hosting regular dinner parties to which prospective husbands are invited.

These daughters could not be more different. Carrie, played by Annette Christian, is devoutly religious. Her idea of a good time is to read the Bible and deny herself any earthly pleasure. By contrast, Mabel, played by Debbi Davis, is a party girl with a wardrobe to rival a department store. Mabel almost escaped the house, but the man got away, and now she has only a teenaged son, played by talented Shawn Michael Edward Robinson, as a souvenir.

Let’s just say that things aren’t what they appear to be, and before the evening is over, the bitter animosity of the sisters, played with delightful invective by Christian and Davis, will explode.

Leon Copeland gives a winning performance as outrageous Willie, a man with a tortured past.

Charles Everhart gives a believable performance as strong, unwavering, and oh-so-patient Joe.

Andy Finley brings charm to randy and unconventional Reverend Ben.

Alphonso Walker, Jr. and Ayana Naomi Williams bring a lot of fun to the perpetually pregnant and none-to-welcome house guests, Jim and Anna.

Director Paulette D. Harris keeps the plot twisting and quips flying. By the time the ultimate secrets are revealed, the audience was reacting audibly and enthusiastically. Good times all around watching this poor tortured family trying to have a simple Christmas dinner.