Several plays and movies have looked at the dynamics surrounding the death of a friend or family member; some funny, some dramatic. Actor and writer Derrell Lawrence says his production, “The Funeral,” which debuted to sold-out performances and solid reviews in his native Philadelphia in January, is a distinct view on that dynamic and he will bring it to the August Wilson Center for a single performance, Friday, Nov. 9.
“It’s funny until it’s not,” he told the New Pittsburgh Courier. “It’s unique. It’s about a family preparing to bury their father, and a lot of things that come out—memories secrets, lies and how those things seem to replace him.”
Though Lawrence has written and produced two previous plays with his Lawrence Theater Company—“Do You Trust Your Best Friend?” and “When Heaven Calls”—this marks his company’s first venture west of the Alleghenies.
“I want to come and introduce myself to Pittsburgh with one show and start a relationship with the city, and test the market,” he said. “It’s important for me that it plays and the August Wilson Center because he was one of the greatest playwrights ever. It’s very symbolic for me, and I think he’d be pleased.
“Pittsburgh is in for a tremendous story and a great show,” added Lawrence. “It’s realistic, it doesn’t feel like a play.”
Lawrence said he is in the process of setting up dates for the play in Detroit, Chicago and New York City, but that will have to wait until he finishes shooting his part in the upcoming film, “The Knights of Graterford.”
“It’s a great story,” he said. “There were these lifers at Graterford state prison back in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s who formed this funk band called ‘Power of Attorney’ and were allowed to leave the prison to perform. They even opened for James Brown. The producer and director saw me in ‘The Funeral’ and hired me on the spot—so that’s pretty cool.”
(Tickets for “The Funeral,” 7:30 p.m. performance on Nov. 9 can be purchased online at https://trustarts.org, or by phone through the box office at 412-456-6666.)
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