Monique and her daughter Sam show up unannounced at the New York home of Monique's sister Rachel and her partner Nadima. Monique tells them they came because her husband Reggie ran off with another woman after the local factory in southern Georgia closed.
Their arrival disrupts the couple's home, but not as much as when they learn that most of what Monique has told them is false.
We learn the truth of what happens in flashbacks that reveal the relationship between Monique, Sam, and Reggie, why they separated, and why Monique ran. Each flashback reveals an unexpected twist that keeps the audience alert. We do not learn who or what Reggie is burying in the opening scene until well into the second act.
The Steppenwolf Theatre staged a gripping production of Donnetta Lavinia Grays's play "Last Night and the Night Before," directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton. What begins as a character study evolves into a mystery and a thought-provoking story about family responsibility, drug addiction, guilt, and loyalty.
With only five actors in the show, each one fills a different role with different personalities and faults. Ayanna Bria Bakari, Sydney Charles, Jessica Dean Turner, and Namir Smallwood shined as Monique, Rachel, Nadima, and Reggie, respectively. But Aliyana Nicole stole the show as innocent, intelligent, and precocious Sam. She would escape her troubled life by reciting the nursery rhymes, songs, and hand games her father taught her.
If I had one complaint about the show, the dialogue between the actor and the audience was sometimes lost. It may have been the acoustics, the sound system, the actors' projection, or Monique's southern drawl, but I missed parts of the conversation and needed to fill them in via the context surrounding them.
This drawback was not enough to lessen the emotional impact of the show. This play will stay with me for some time.