Sunday, November 13, 2011

In 'Milk Like Sugar,' Life Isn't so Sweet

Talisha (Cherise Boothe), Annie (Angela Lewis) and Margie (Nikiya Mathis) make a dangerous pact in "Milk Like Sugar." Photos by Ari Mintz.


IN “Milk Like Sugar,” Beyonce’s “Run The World (Girls)”
is the ironic anthem that introduces three teenagers, Talisha (Cherise Boothe), Margie (Nikiya Mathis) and Annie (Angela Lewis), as they stride purposefully and noisily into Antwoine’s (LeRoy McClain) tattoo parlor.

Kirsten Greenidge’s brilliant new play is a simile of despair. A joint production of Women’s Project Theater and La Jolla Playhouse, “Milk Like Sugrar” is in an extended run through 27 Nov at Playwrights Horizons.

The girls’ seeming confidence is just bravado, no surer than the quicksand on which they have built their young lives. Hopelessness is engrained in the dismal choices they have made and that have been made for them. (See video at

Talisha, Margie and Annie have made a pact. They plan to have girl babies and parade them around in matching pink brandname strollers. These girls don’t have low expectations, they have no expectations. Well, actually, they do expect that “a little tiny baby,” as Annie says, will love them completely.

Malik (J. Mallory-McCree) has a different outlook from most of the people in Annie's life in "Milk Like Sugar."

Nothing in their world encourages them to do better. No bright future awaits them. They are part of a cycle of unhappiness and poverty. The performances are uniformly heart-breakingly genuine as to elicit sympathy for the girls' plight. KG's prose bears witness, not judgment; she capturs the tempo of youth-speak perfectly.

Bullying and vulnerable Talisha is lost to a series of “old guys” who keep her in bling and in thrall. Of the three girls, it is Talisha who is most broken by her all too-adult lifestyle. Margie, already pregnant, is sweet and dumb. Her fate is sealed by a loving family with a tradition of having children at a young age. As for Annie, any potential she has is squelched by her mother, Myrna (Tonya Pinkins). A dreamer discontented and bitter about her fate as a child bride, Myrna is cruel, self-absorbed and jealous of her daughter. AL gives a deeply touching performance of Annie’s plight.

Margie, Talisha and Annie hang out with Antwoine (LeRoy McClain) in "Milk Like Sugar."

Only Malik (J. Mallory-McCree), the stargazer who has been picked by Annie’s crew to be her baby daddy, really sees a way out for himself. His hope is to help Annie find that ticket to a more purposeful life as well.

“Milk Like Sugar” tells a sad story that is woven like a fine tapestry into a plot both expected and surprising.

Visit to learn more about “Milk Like Sugar.”

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