Pictured: Ensemble of “The Green Book Wine Club Train Trip.” Photo by Thomas Kimble.
By Megan Greenlee
Wine and time travel. Laughter and tears. To live a full adventurous life or stay home with your cat? Michelle Tyrene Johnson’s “The Green Book Wine Club Train Trip” takes you on a bold exploit from your seat at the Just Off Broadway Theatre.
Lights up on five friends sitting on a train, talking about life, love, and wine. Marie (Khrystal Coppage) is an uptight no-nonsense type of woman. She’s planned the journey for her friends, a wine-book club, but doesn’t drink the wine. She’s more interested in a book that’s been handed down through her family—The Negro Motorist Green Book—a safe-travel guide for Black travelers which was published for 30 years beginning in 1936. Her friends want her to loosen up but she just isn’t comfortable with that.
Marie gets off the train to stretch and something bizarre happens. She finds herself in another time as an adventure her grandma wanted for her begins. Marie is shocked to find herself in 1946, a time before the end of the Jim Crow era. Marie meets Bertha (Cecilia Belsen-Patton) who owns a boarding house along with Henrietta (Played by Karis Harrington). Cotton Blue (Lanette King) and Lucy (Jabrelle Herbin) are some of their “boarders.” Marie is appalled at the sorts of things she sees happening and just wants to go home, but the more she stops thinking of this time-travel adventure as research, the more she connects with the women and realizes she is there for a purpose. All their stories and destinies are interwoven. “Stories are just an arrangement of facts that start in interesting places. And sometimes, there is a wrinkle,” Marie says.
Johnson’s beautiful words will stay with me. Produced by KC MeltingPot Theatre, the play shines a light on the playwrighting talent right here in Kansas City. Johnson’s script frees the five actors allowing them to be brave, powerful, creative artists who invest in the show, making it more than a collection of words.
Khrystal Coppage plays Marie with honest authenticity, handling the immense amount of dialogue with ease and poise. Cecilia Belsen-Patton and Karis Harrington deliver powerful performances centered on what it means to be different and to love different. Harrington brings a serene and graceful approach to Henrietta and Belsen-Patton allows the audience to see into a wounded, hardened, but
“Green Book” will have you on the edge of your seat and will sweep you away to a world where segregation and homophonic prejudices are pervasive. Where sometimes you have to make tough decisions in order to live and provide for others. And in the end, you are left grateful to live in the 21st century but reminded of where we have come from and where we still need to go.
Head on down to Just Off Broadway Theatre. Grab yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the adventure of “The Green Book Wine Club Train Trip.”
“The Green Book Wine Club Train Trip” runs through March 2. For more information visit kcmeltingpot.com.