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THEATER REVIEW: “Crumbs From The Table Of Joy” | VIDEO

“Death brought us to Brooklyn, the Nostrand Ave. stop on the A line ... A basement apartment, kind of romantic, like a Parisian artist’s flat.” -- Ernestine Crumb

That’s 17-year-old Ernestine Crumb (Jada Temple), elder daughter of recent widower Godfrey (Vimel Sephus) and older sister of 15-year-old Ermina (Deja Fields), trying to make the best of the family’s new situation.

It’s 1950 and Godfrey has uprooted the family from Pensacola to Brooklyn in search of his own solace – a charismatic preacher called Father Divine, under whose influence Godfrey has denied his girls the usual teen pleasures of music, dancing and dating.

Instead, he’s pushing the three V’s: virtue, victory and virginity – as if being the new kids with homemade clothes and “country” braids weren’t enough to alienate their classmates.

Just as they’re trying to settle in, a human hurricane walks in. It’s Aunt Lily (Cashae Monya), a feisty, flashy, mouthy feminist and earth-mover with communist leanings and a fondness for the bottle. She also seems to have designs on her late sister’s husband.

One day, in search of escape from what Godfrey sees as the Lily trap, he disappears, to reappear some time later with a new wife. Her name is Gerte (Jennifer Eve Thorn) and she’s not only white, but German, complete with accent.

This sets up a whole host of topics for Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage to explore: racism, feminism, coming of age and family issues.

“Crumbs From The Table Of Joy” plays through March 2 at Moxie Theatre, directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg.

Ernestine serves as narrator of this heady combination of family drama (with a healthy dose of comedy), memory play and coming-of-age piece. It’s a bit like Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach series in that regard.

Nottage’s fully realized characters allow for small, charming touches like Ernestine’s wishes for a more storybook life: every now and then she reports a fictional event, ending with “At least I wish they had.”

Sonnenberg (who worked on the original 1995 New York production) has a fine cast and a demonstrates a sure directorial hand for this lovely, funny and poetic piece.

Monya, impressive in previous productions, is simply smashing as independent thinker Aunt Lily, whose amusing brashness and fierce feminism mask but don’t cover her vulnerability.

Sephus and Thorn are impressive as always. Temple and Fields, both from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, also contribute excellent performances.

It’s all about identity and connection, beautifully portrayed and supported by Tim Nottage’s period-right sets, Jennifer Brawn Gitting’s just-right costumes. Melanie Chen’s fine sound design (including laugh tracks from TV shows being watched in other apartments), and Ross Glanc’s excellent lighting and Jennifer Berry’s choreography also contribute to this superb production.

The details

“Crumbs From The Table Of Joy” plays through March 2, 2014 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: (858) 598-7620 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.