‘Firepower’ brings themes of manhood, masculinity to Detroit Repertory Theatre

ith August Wilson’s Fences leaping from stage to screen, stage productions centered around black families are at a fever pitch. A new play in that mold makes its debut here at the Detroit Repertory Theatre.

Veteran black playwright Kermit Frazier premiered Firepower at the theater in January, with shows running until mid-March. The play, set in 1989 Washington, D.C., follows a father, absent from the family for 20 years, and his two adult sons – one a once-promising athlete, the other a closeted gay man – on their journey of courage, honesty, forgiveness, redemption and acceptance.

“The play is about these three black men at different points in their lives having to reconcile with each other in order to keep a strong family with the two women in the family gone,” Frazier tells BLAC. It’s established early on the mother of the family had died from cancer. Still to unfold to the audience are the mysterious circumstances around the death of the family’s only daughter.

It’s Frazier’s second play about a contemporary black family, with Legacies being the first. “(Firepower) is just a way of holding a mirror to some people in the African-American community,” he says.

He found inspiration in writing the play from his own family and life growing up in Washington, D.C. Getting it off the page was a challenge; he’d submitted it to various theaters at different times until Detroit Repertory Theatre showed interest.

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“I was delighted to be able to have (Firepower) done at the theater,” he says.

Frazier wants to display that black men can come in all different shapes and sizes, attitudes, sexual preferences and experiences and still be strong black men. “With each character in the play being entirely different from one another, it’s all about respecting each other’s different realities,” he says.

Though the production touches on serious themes, Frazier does write in humorous moments. “Laughter comes at an understanding that there’s a sort of very human and multifaceted quality about the characters,” he says.

Firepower runs Thursdays-Sundays until March 12. Tickets are $17-$20. More, including showtimes, at detroitreptheatre.com.

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