Cause if you are here, you’ve done something
If you don’t know by now, Lynn Nottage’s Floyd’s has sandwiches in it. Floyd’s itself is a truck stop in Pennsylvania run by Floyd, played by Johanna Day.. Employed by Floyd are Montrellous (John Earl Jelks), Letitia (Dame Jasmine Hughes), Rafael (Reza Salazar), and a newbie to the stop, Jason (Andrew Veenstra). Over the course of the play, we watch these five struggle to find power in themselves and from each other, leading to both live-saving and heart-wrenching results. Set in the kitchen of the truck stop (authentically presented by scenic designer Laura Jellinek) the clash of dreams and reality constantly collide against each other; prison truly has become the great equalizer for these people who have diverse histories and problems. We watch them as they learn to trust again -- they must relearn this to have any chance of success in a society that has all but erased them from existence. This job and truck stop is a purgatory for all five lives. Things are not the best they could be by a long shot, but things could be a hell of a lot worse.
You speak the truth, then let go and cook
All five actors in this show, helmed by director Kate Whoriskey, made for a dynamic cast, with an outstanding performance by Dame Jasmine Hughes. Hughes’ delivery and presentation was a blend of Shakespearean and contemporary that made her engaging and relatable from beginning to end. Johanna Day also brings a wicked combination of humor and terror to her role. The soundscape work on this show also deserves a special shout-out. Sound designer Justin Ellington, along with original music by Justin Hicks, created tension and emotion that elevated the scenes while adding to the reality of the work environment.
Just because you left prison doesn’t mean you are out of prison
We shouldn’t need a story like Floyd’s. Why is it that we need a play to tell us that people who have been through the prison system should still be considered human when they get out? Why is it revolutionary to see an optimistic black man like Montrellous on stage? It is clear through the text that when Nottage did her research that lead to this play; she looked at people and saw them as people. Nottage didn’t reduced them to a label and the play shows that we must fight against it ourselves. We watch this team fall in love, laugh, cry, forgive, and work together to make the best of what they can. This is humanity -- protecting your family, dealing with emotions, and learning how to live when society doesn't care if you do or not.
Floyd’s is a unique call to action that simple asks: “Know me before you judge me." It is easy to be forgiving and understanding to these characters onstage, so we must ask ourselves, “Why aren’t we constantly doing this our day-to-day lives?”
We are not replaceable, but we can be replaced
Nottage brings us a slice of life that so many ignore, and at the conclusion of the play, I could feel that so many audiences members went through an “eye-opening experience”. So, if you need it, go see Floyd’s to get your eyes opened. Then, keep them open. Don’t just look at the sandwich; bite it.
Floyd’s runs through August 31st at The Guthrie Theater