February 13, 2014
By Edward Rice, III
LAWT Contributing Writer
Men have feelings. And despite the age old adage that suggests big boys don’t cry the dirty secret is: men actually cry. “The Things That Make Men Cry” is the stage play that explores the topics that typically move men to tears currently playing at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Los Angeles through Valentine’s Day weekend (February 14-16). Set in a barbershop in Los Angeles, the play centers on the lives of barbers Joe (Lou Beatty Jr.) and Mel (Gregory Niebel) and the clients who frequent the establishment. Based on the book of the same title written by the play’s executive producer Dr. Gloria Morrow, “The Things That Make Men Cry,” opens up the doors of the barbershop to allow the audience an opportunity to peer inside the souls of men.
“Back in 2008 I was counseling a couple and there was a lot of tension in the room,” says Dr. Morrow as she discusses her inspiration for the book. “When I saw them separately the man just started weeping. He could barely sit down long enough for me to do the things that I do and say the things that I say before he just started balling. He said he felt misunderstood. He said he loved his wife, he just didn’t know how to communicate with her and he was overwhelmed by her.” As the play unfolds everything from fatherhood, divorce, love, unemployment and sex are tackled in the shop. Much like a real barbershop, the centerpiece of the shop which holds everything together is the veteran barber, Joe. “I felt that I could really show my wares in this role,” says Lou Beatty speaking about his character Joe. “Every role doesn’t fit but this role was a great fit for me.” Joe provides the voice of reason and always has some sage advice for his co-workers and patrons despite his own character flaws
Conversely, if Joe is reason then Mel is insanity. Played with great insight and humor, Mel is the comedic relief in the play. He is the stereotypical, guarded, sarcastic ladies man. “Mel works on different levels. He obviously loves women,” says Niebel with a chuckle. “But he’s got his armor up when it’s around women and he doesn’t like having to show his emotions and that all rings very true. I think that’s a universal trait in being male. It has just been hammered in our DNA that you don’t show emotion, you don’t cry, you don’t talk about your feelings, you contain everything and don’t let these things bother you and these things are changing.”
Newcomer to the stage Steve Turner shoulders the responsibility of bringing to life Charles, the character facing marital woes in the play. Divorced and unemployed, Charles struggles with providing for the son he loves dearly and navigating the remains of his volatile relationship with his son’s mother. “I related to the character 100%,” says Steve emphatically. “This role has been very therapeutic for me too at the same time. The biggest learning for me was just learning how to get it out. You know there’s a part where we talk about the son being cut in half, about putting your child first and that resonates. A lot of times many of the single men and women out there arguing over a child don’t always realize the effect it has on the child. That right there made me realize we need to be willing to put our differences aside for the sole purpose of raising our children.”
“The Things That Make Men Cry” is a powerful stage play that will help initiate some of those difficult conversations that men need to have about the things they talk about when nobody’s around. “To see this thing happen and see our community blessed has been the crucible for me,” says Dr. Morrow. “I think that we will bring a wonderful opportunity for men to speak their truth and women to receive that as well.”