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photo by Robert Hakalski
South Philadelphia-based theater company Theatre Exile (1340 S. 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147) is excited to present The Light by Chicago-born playwright Loy A. Webb in 2023. The show is the second production of Theatre Exile’s 2022/23 season and will have 22 performances from February 2 to February 26. The Light features Philadelphia-based actors Ang Bey (they/them) and Abdul Sesay (he/him), with J. Paul Nicholas (he/him) directing.
Webb, an accomplished playwright, television writer, attorney, and theater journalist, developed the play at The New Colony in Chicago, where it officially premiered in January 2018. The play then received an Off-Broadway presentation at The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space and was hailed by The New York Times as “compelling” and “visceral.” In addition to its critical success, Webb’s debut play earned an Outer Critics Circle nomination for “Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play” and won a Joseph Jefferson Award. The Light is a real-time rollercoaster ride of laughter, romance, and despair that uncovers how the power of love can be a healing beacon of light.
The Light opens with Rashad (Sesay), a former college football star-turned-firefighter, who is waiting for his girlfriend, Genesis (Bey), to return home from her job as the principal at an all-black Chicago charter school. It’s the couple’s second anniversary, and Rashad has been planning for months to make it a day to remember. After reminiscing about the day they first met, Rashad proposes to Genesis, and she says yes. Everything is going great until Rashad reveals he also bought tickets to a music festival organized by a controversial recording artist. What started as the happiest day of a loving couple’s lives quickly unravels when ground-shifting accusations from the past come to the surface.
“The Light is a beautifully written, compelling play that draws you into the heart of two characters who are deeply in love,” said Deborah Block, Producing Artistic Director at Theatre Exile. “In true Theatre Exile fashion, the problems arise when the characters expose the parts of themselves that have been actively trying to keep in the dark. We have been trying to work with Abdul Sesay for a while and are thrilled that Ang Bey is returning to Exile’s stage after their stellar performance in our online production of D-Pad by Jeremy Gable.”
Leading Theatre Exile’s production of The Light is J. Paul Nicholas, an award-winning actor, director, and fight choreographer with over 15 years of experience. Nicholas acted in numerous touring theater productions and television series, most recently appearing in the hit HBO Max series Mare of Easttown. In 2021, he joined the Florida Studio Theatre as an Associate Artist, where he helped advance the company’s robust New Play Development program and led classes at their school. This also isn’t his first time working with Theatre Exile. Nicholas was previously the fight choreographer for their 2010 production of That Pretty Pretty, was cast in 2012’s The English Bride, and delivered a Barrymore Award winning acting performance as Imam Saleem in 2016’s The Invisible Hand.
“Theatre Exile will always provoke the senses and the emotions of their audiences while challenging them to examine difficult themes,” said Nicholas. “I was drawn to this play because it invites the viewer into an extremely intimate and precarious moment between two people who are in a strong and loving relationship. The tension is real, it is raw, and it is unavoidable. The question is whether it’s strong enough to break the love?”
For the safety and comfort of patrons, Theatre Exile will require audiences and staff to wear masks and show proof of vaccination for most performances.