Playwright Shaleeha G’ntamobi’s new work about an alcoholic black mother and her slick son struggling to get out of the projects is suddenly winning accolades and being embraced by a revered theater festival.
The twist? G’ntamobi isn’t real. She only exists in the mind of gay (and white) playwright Danny Larson, who wanted to give birth to a nom-de-plume that smacked of affirmative action.
And so it goes in “The Submission,” an intriguing new work by writer Jeff Talbott onstage at the New Conservatory Theatre Center through Dec. 16.
Directed by Ben Randle, the plot revolves around Emilie (Sam Jackson), an actress who agrees to “play” the script’s author for the playwright. But when she falls for his pal (Chris Morrell), eventually racial issues rise to the surface.
Alex Kirschner rounds out the cast as Danny’s partner.
“The most challenging [thing] for me was wrapping my head around Emilie’s logic throughout the play,” says Jackson, describing her role. “I found early on that Emilie and I share many traits. We are both strong, well-spoken, outgoing and educated young women. However, our views on the homosexual community and our touchiness of our own racial struggles differ greatly.
“To say it plainly: I had a very hard time defending a lot of Emilie’s ideas of the world.”
Jackson praises Talbott for creating a script that stands out in a number of areas — beyond the clever concept.
“First off, it isn’t easy to make conversations in coffee shops and hotel rooms interesting, but somehow, Jeff was able to keep us on edge as we peer into the lives of these characters in these seemingly mundane settings,” she adds.
But the production seems to shine brightest whenever it draws parallels between the civil-rights struggles found in the black and LGBT communities.
“This play dares to question where the parallels end and differences begin,” Jackson says. “As awful as it may sound, I can say with quite a bit of confidence that the characters in this play say many things that most people have thought, but are too afraid to say aloud for fear of sounding racist and/or homophobic.”
But it’s for that very reason that Jackson believes the production will “definitely grab” audiences in a way they are not expecting.