In Kirsten Greenidge’s Obie Award-winning play “Milk Like Sugar,” directed by Jennifer L. Nelson, both Greenidge and Nelson do a masterful job of taking a contemporary look at adolescents deprived of adequate mentorship and economic footing, while challenging societal disadvantages.
The play centers around three black teenage high school girls who form a pact to all get pregnant at the same time as they all search for love in all the wrong places.
However, things take a much-needed turn, after their friend Margie (played by Ghislaine Dwarka) becomes pregnant first and begins to tackle doctor bills, health care and future rent.
Suddenly, the fantasy of fancy “Coach diaper bags” and “matching pink Jordans” quickly begins to blow out of the window, as each of the friends search for instant gratification and some form of escape from broken families and poverty.
The main character, Annie, played by Kashayna Johnson, intermittently plays with the idea of going off to college, but is quickly deterred by Margie and their domestically abused friend Talisha (Renee Elizabeth Wilson), who encourage her to forget her dreams.
Mixed with adolescent love and an emotionally vacant mother Myrna (Deidra LaWan Starnes), the outcomes of Annie’s life are startling as she desperately tries to make sense of the world and escape an imitation of life.
Hannah Correlli, who took in a recent performance of the play, said the characters’ experiences caused her to reflect on her own.
“This was heavy, but it was really good,” Correlli said. “To be honest, this is a really good way to [view] experiences that are really not my own. I never had ‘Milk Like Sugar,’ you know — I mean, I grew up with milk in a jug. I know it’s not necessarily literal, but it was really nice to see another side of things and the privileges I’ve been afforded with.”
Aver Collins, a Baltimore native, said he moved by the impact of the teen dialogue and layout of the plot.
“The title [of the play] really brought everything home, like false reality, false hope given to us, that makes us think and want what we think everybody else has,” Collins said. “The show was really good. It showed a different side of African-Americans and not just a slave story or another sad story. It was just about black people being black and the everyday obstacles that a lot of us go through.”
“Milk Like Sugar” proves to be a wonderful contemporary coming-of-age story that all should see.
“Milk Like Sugar” is running at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in D.C. until Nov. 27.