*Johnny Williams is a Black man in New York with a bar and restaurant who also runs a small stable of prostitutes. One of them, a young white woman named Dee, is in love with him. It’s not enough for him, however. He has big plans, and awaits the release of his mentor, Sweets Crane, from the penitentiary.
It’s a milieu of gangsters , hustlers, and rough characters, but two of Johnny’s regulars, Gabe and Mel, have loftier ambitions. Gabe is an actor and poet; Mel is a dancer (and sometimes works in Johnny’s kitchen).
Johnny has opened his joint downtown, which is the turf of the white Mafia. His position is precarious enough, but when he makes a judge’s daughter one of his girls and uses her as a pawn in a scheme to blackmail the local Mafia boss, he’s really headed for trouble.
There are gangsters, guns, and girls in the first play by an African American playwright and the first play from off-Broadway ever to win a Pulitzer Prize (1970). The Civil Rights era play was first produced at a time when Black people anticipated being born into “a new life,” in Gabe’s words.
Subtitled “a Black-black comedy,” No Place To Be Somebody was described by playwright Charles Gordone as being “about country folk who had migrated to the big city, seeking the urban myth of success, only to find disappointment, despair and death.”
Charles Gordone (1925-1995) first made his mark as an actor, winning an Obie Award in 1953 in an all-Black production of “Of Mice And Men.” He was also in the cast of the 1961-1966 production of Jean Genet’s “The Blacks,” sharing the stage with James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelou. It was during this period that Gordone became inspired to become a prolific playwright.
Read more at EURThisNthat.