BY GEORGE J. DACRE
With clever staging and some fine acting, the Shades Repertory Group did a good job of creating a women’s prison atmosphere in their most recent play “Clover,” written by Samuel Harps and directed by Mel Hancock.
“Clover” tells the story of a young, pregnant black woman Marlene B. Davenport (played by Donna James) sent to the prison for the murder of her father, who was abusive to her. She is sent to a jail with some very rough and tough inmates and putting her at the mercy of a tough jail guard. A white woman jail official pushes Warren Raven Roberson (played by Sienna Jeffries) into giving up for adoption her baby, which is born in the prison.
Throw in a riot at the prison on an upper-floor, and the escape through a tunnel by a couple of the women inmates, and you have a stark drama that gives an insight what it might be like in such a prison, especially for a very young, black pregnant woman.
Her cellmates Doreeen Renee Jackson (played by Ebon’ee Collens), Violet Fontaine (played by Danielle Alexa Jean), Dorothy “Dottie” Wells, the only white inmate in their cell and played by Theodore Kimmel, all are tough talkers who like to tell their tales of what pushed them into crimes that led them to prison.
At first hostile towards the young mom-to-be, their better side comes out as they turn protective towards Marlene and become mother to her and help deliver her baby in their cell in the prison. Nichol Bradford (played by Jessica Jaber), a jail employee, has many confrontations with Marlene urging the young woman to give her expected baby up for adoption and Sienna Jeffries does a fine job of acting in portraying the young woman who wants Marlene to keep her baby.
The outcome of all this turbulent action comes in a poignant manner with cellmate “Marlena,” who was the main woman in the cell confronting the other cellmates and controlling them with her size and will, in a tender closing scene with the young mom whom reluctantly has signed off on the adoption issue.
Buddy Toliver plays the tough jail guard convincingly. “Clover” is presented well and takes up issues that confront women in prison and in life. It is an interesting production and I rate it Three Stars Out Of Four!!!