KC Melting Pot’s ‘The Session’ Is a Stirring Lesson in Vulnerability

In a scene from a play, a group of women gather in an office.

The cast of The Session (Thomas Kimble – TK Photography)

In The Session, currently on-stage at the Kansas City Melting Pot Theatre, five women are forced to make themselves exceptionally vulnerable with one another—and, unexpectedly, with themselves in the process. Written by Kansas City playwright and KCMPT co-founder Harvey Williams, the play is a whirlwind exploration of the harm inflicted on us by the world, by each other, and by ourselves.

The five women in Williams’ play are brought together for a court-mandated anger management session. They come from very different backgrounds with their walls up and (figurative) knives out, and under the direction of facilitator Ms. Hunter, each must open up to the group about the source of their pain.

This structure means that each actress gets a center-stage monologue moment—including Ms. Hunter (Casey Jane), who harbors secrets of her own. The cast is very much up to the task. Beth (Briana Van Deusen) is more angry at her own extremely hurtful perception of her self-worth than anything else. Davis (Amber Redmond) is furious at the racism that’s so foundational to this country, that perpetually keeps Black women at “the back of the line.” Cynthia (Areli Gil, radiating kindness) is similarly angry with racist systems and institutions as they affect immigrants. (Although, disappointingly, she never gets to fully address the individual-level racism being hurled at her by multiple characters on-stage.) KCMPT newcomer Tailor Jewell Smith gives an especially moving performance as Reatha, a woman whose pain and insecurities drive her to throw up hard walls and lash out at anyone and everyone as a means of preemptive self-preservation.

The Session is a heavy character study and a complex exploration of American racism and classism, but Williams keeps humor peppered consistently throughout. He and the cast, along with Lewis Morrow, making his directorial debut—have brought deeply developed characters to the stage in scenes that feel entirely natural but still compelling.

“The Session,” a production of KC Melting Pot, runs through February 17 at the Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051 Central. For more information, visit www.kcmeltingpot.com.

Vivian Kane

Vivian Kane is a writer living in Kansas City. She covers pop culture and politics for a national audience at The Mary Sue and theatre and film locally, with bylines in The Pitch. She has an MFA in Theatre from CalArts.

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