An African-American Funeral Parlor Becomes a Battleground in a Searing New Play About Traumatic Loss

Before getting to the whats of The Willows, Kerri-Ann McCalla’s family drama about melancholy and traumatic loss, which is getting a polished world premiere at Bootleg Theatre, it may shed some light to talk about the what-it-is-nots.

For one thing, though its narratives intersect at the African-American Willows Funeral Home (courtesy of designer Amanda Knehans’ elegant wallpaper and woodwork set pieces) and center on two well-heeled black families — one with the surname Black, the other led by a white husband/father — the play has very little to say about race. In fact, McCalla’s script is so culturally nonspecific, its naturalistic language so insistently neutral, that it is easy to imagine a cast of any color playing the two families without an audience being any the wiser.


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