Master of the Crossroads

“a perfect script by director Paul Calderon and exceptional acting by the cast… not only the best production we’ve seen from Primitive Grace, it’s easily the best theatre we’ve reviewed so far this year.”

By Andrew Andrews

Jimbo (Obi Abili) subdues Cornbread (Nixon Cesar) in Paul Calderon’s Master of the Crossroads. Original photo by Joanna Pickering.

Shetler Studios is a difficult place to enjoy theater, because the sound bleeds through from one space to the next, and you’re often too distracted by what’s going on next door to appreciate what’s on stage in front of you.

A really superb show can leap any hurdle and deliver an amazing experience even when the odds are against it. Back in September, In the Bleak Midwinter was such a show, convincing us to give Shetler another shot and check out Primitive Grace Theatre Ensemble’s Master of the Crossroads.

To be fair, the company itself gave us even more reason to attend: we know from experience that their productions are always chock-full of intensity—you can read all about it in our reviews of Fringe of Humanity and Divine Horsemen.

Master of the Crossroads, however, takes intensity to the extreme.

Set primarily in a dark, ghetto apartment in Baton Rouge, the story explores the lunacy of two Iraqi war vets suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Unlike the PTSD we recently glimpsed in Till We Meet Again, these two vets—who, we might add, are also fraternal, African-American twins—suffer more than hallucinations of images from their past.

Cornbread (Nixon Cesar), who’s “had his share of war,” has kidnapped a “sand-nigger” that he feels needs to be crucified.

Literally crucified.

Cornbread’s ex-wife, Yolanda (Sarah Kate Jackson), says the victim is actually a “Spanish man,” and she pleads with Cornbread’s brother, Jimbo (Obi Abili), to intervene before something even more terrible happens.

But Jimbo—committed to keeping his own hands clean as a good Christian—“ain’t gettin’ involved.”

That is, until Yolanda convinces him otherwise.

As the story progresses, we learn that Jimbo has his own demons to deal with. And between the two vets and their altered senses of reality, the only chance your heart gets to slow-the-fuck-down is during the few brief, minor set changes that provide a short minute to take a deep breath.

Seriously, people: we haven’t seen a show this freakin’ intense for a long, long time.

With a perfect script by director Paul Calderon and exceptional acting by the cast—not to mention ideal sound that helps drown out the neighbors—Master of the Crossroads is not only the best production we’ve seen from Primitive Grace, it’s easily the best theatre we’ve reviewed so far this year.

And already, it’s been a busy year.


Andrew Andrews attended Master of the Crossroads at Shetler Studios The Bridge Theater in Manhattan on Thursday, January 17, 2019 @ 8:00pm to write this review.