BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
Hanging around a tattoo parlor, three inner-city teenagers impulsively agree to a pregnancy pact as “Milk Like Sugar” begins, and Kirsten Greenidge’s insightful 100-minute drama ruefully observes the foolishness of their decision.
Opening on Tuesday at Playwrights Horizons in a very well-acted production, “Milk Like Sugar” may be too obviously cautionary at times in its worthy message, but Greenidge’s flavorful language, believable characters and concise storytelling give the audience an absorbing 100 minutes.
Appealingly portrayed by Angela Lewis, the play’s central figure is Annie, who soon doubts whether it’s a good idea to get pregnant at 16.
Her pals, the reckless Talisha (Cherise Boothe) and empty-headed Margie (Nikiya Mathis), believe it’s “gonna be mad cool yo” to pop out babies and increasingly pressure Annie to share their experience.
Such thoughtless hunger for a baby’s unconditional love suggests the absence of affection in the girls’ families. Certainly there is little love shown in the relationship between Annie and her bitter mom Myrna, balefully depicted by Tonya Pinkins, with a cigarette always dangling from her curled lip.
Their constant chatter about deluxe brands of phones, clothes and accessories reveal how disconnected these teens are from their impoverished reality.
Two boys, earnest Malik (J. Mallory-McCree) and the nice but fairly clueless Antwoine (LeRoy McClain), figure into the drama as does Keera (Adrienne C. Moore), a churchgoing plain Jane who points Annie towards an alternative way to live. The play’s outcome is not totally bleak but scarcely can be termed a happy ending.
Director Rebecca Taichman obtains excellent performances from her ensemble – that Angela Lewis is something special to watch as the heroine – and fields a smooth production. Fluent settings by Mimi Lien, hotly-tinted lighting by Justin Townsend, character-insightful clothes by Toni-Leslie James and effective music by Andre Pluess are integral components in this capable production of a thoughtful play.