Critic's PickIn a recent essay in Newsweek, Walter Mosley stated, “Everybody is guilty of something.” That truism is apparent in The Fall of Heaven, the first play by the well-known crime and mystery novelist in its world premiere at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
Tempest Landry (Leland Gantt) is a guy who’s done a few bad things, but they don’t add up to eternal damnation in his mind, so after he’s inadvertently shot to death by the police, he denies St. Peter’s final judgment to send him to hell. His surprising exercise of free will sends him back to earth with a straight-arrow angel, Joshua (Esau Pritchett), who’s expertise is accounting.
As Joshua learns more about being human from a day job, from his contrary-minded charge and Tempest’s occasional girlfriend Bronwyn (Heather Alicia Simms), Tempest’s own learning curve is side-tracked by the Prince of Darkness himself, here called “Basil Bob” (Andrew Marble, wearing cowboy boots, snakeskin pants, a fur-lined duster and Rock star locks).
With dialogue that’s equal parts street language and intellectual discourse (not unlike the musings of Easy Rawlins in his best-known mystery novels) and set on a wildly distorted Harlem streetscape (designed by Tony Award winner David Gallo), The Fall of Heaven is an auspicious stage debut that will entertain audiences. With the sure-handed staging by venerable director Marion McClinton, the play moves between scenes of laugh-out-loud humor and serious philosophy. Contemporary political commentary resides comfortably side-by-side with issues that have been debated for millennia.
It’s easy to like Tempest Landry and learn from him via Gantt’s portrait of an imperfect everyman. The Fall of Heaven could mark the rise of Walter Mosley as a powerful contemporary voice on the American stage. And it’s happening right here in Cincinnati.
THE FALL OF HEAVEN, presented in a world premiere by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, continues through Feb. 20. Read Rick Pender’s interview with Walter Mosley here. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get theater details here.
WALTER MOSELY presents a free lecture as part of the Playhouse's "Perspective Series" at 6 p.m. Feb. 7. Get more information here.