Tough Brown Leather - Hollywood Fringe Festival Review

By Erin Fair

Two chairs adorn the minimalist stage, framing the performer and a projector shining on a white screen. The lights in the theater go down and the screen displays a singular image of four black girls holding hands and partaking in a children's nursery rhyme, building anticipation.

Tonya Jones, the writer-actor of Tough Brown Leather, creeps to the pitch-black center stage and screams. It is a heart-wrenching, attention-grabbing holler that opens the program. Ms. Jones shames herself, "Slut!" "Whore!" "How can you be so promiscuous?!" and the stage lights come up. We now see the woman debasing herself in all her fury, and we want to know why she has contempt for her own body.

Ms. Jones tells the audience about football. We learn about her life and the pent up aggression and rage she feels as she relays to the audience how much she enjoys beating boys up in football. The story starts when she is seven years old and she tells her father how much she wants to play football and her father gives the stereotypical answer of "girls don't play football." She, of course, disobeys him and does it anyway. Through her football interludes, we learn of her own response to her background and history. Each football story acts as a punctuation mark between each tragedy of how she has been mistreated by men in her life. A pause between each emotional low, allowing the audience to breath before the next emotional gut punch.

From an early age, Ms. Jones was made to frequent her grandmother's house where she was around her grandmother's foster kids, particularly Maurice, an older foster teen. We learn that Maurice was the first man to abuse her at the age of seven. She didn't speak of this to anyone, nor did she cry about it. She blamed herself, and her naiveté - not him. She enacts to the audience how she has had several sexually abusive incidents and how she constantly criticizes herself for them.

Ms. Jones weaves these narratives together, completes her metaphorical circles, and triumphs over all of her dilemmas in her life as her confident performance and credentials speak for themselves. Tough Brown Leather is an aptly named play in its display of perseverance and fortitude. In a time when sexual freedom and women's rights has taken several steps back, here, we have a woman who tells young girls who have been victimized; this is not your burden, this is not your shame, you are not a slut and you can rise above.

Tickets for Tough Brown Leather, running through June 24 at Lounge Theatre, here.

Posted By Erin Fair on June 08, 2017 09:49 am | Permalink