New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


Did you know NJ Stage offers FREE Event Listings? Nearly 100,000 listings were viewed in January. Be sure to add your events to our calendar and get your shows noticed!

The Best Of Enemies

By Gary Wien


(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- "There's a lot of hate here," said Ann Atwater, an African-American civil rights activist in Durham, North Carolina around 1971. Ann is one of the central characters in Mark St. Germain's "The Best of Enemies" play. The others include C.P. Ellis, a Grand Cyclops of the KKK, and Bill Riddick, a community organizer who attempts to bring the pair together during the desegregation of the Durham schools. It's a remarkable story about racial tension, changing times, and the goodness that is in all of us. Best of all, it's a true story.

I've seen a lot of plays in my life. Some were good, some not so good, and some were damn near perfect. It's rare that I see a play that I'd really say was as IMPORTANT as this one. Running now through December 23rd at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, this play tears down the wall that hides one of America's darkest periods. I'd love to see high schools and junior highs from throughout the state get the opportunity to see this play because it shows history that isn't taught -- recent history, the kind that should matter the most to us, yet is never brought up.

"The Best of Enemies" has a nice brisk pace, outstanding acting, and utilizes multimedia well to show various locations throughout Durham. The play begins with Riddick (played by Don Guillory) in the auto garage owned by C.P. Ellis (John Bedford Lloyd). It's hard to tell if Riddick is extremely brave facing off against a KKK leader or simply a fool. When he later meets Ann Atwater (Aisha Hinds), it's clear she believes he is the latter.

"You think you're Jesus Christ coming into town on Palm Sunday," said Atwater. "But I think you're the ass he rode on!"

Eventually Riddick is able to get both of them to be co-sponsors of a town meeting geared toward saving the schools. For Atwater, that means providing the same education for blacks as the white kids receive. For Ellis, that means keeping the two as far apart as possible.

As Ellis and Atwater spend more and more time working together, they learn that the other isn't nearly as different as they think. Germain does a wonderful job showing how easy it is to hate what you don't know and how difficult it is to keep that hatred after you get to know the person. The two suffer personally due to the meetings. The KKK members, who Ellis believed were his friends, begin to hate him for working with Atwater and business at his garage drops substantially. Meanwhile, Atwater, who quit her job a few weeks before Riddick came to town, struggles to find work and put food on the table for her children.

Throughout the situation, both sort of resent Riddick for changing their views. Ellis can sense the world he knew is changing around him and he doesn't know if he'll be able to adapt. Atwater believes Riddick cares more about his own reputation than fixing the schools. In the end, both Atwater and Ellis put their kids ahead of their own prejudices. In Ellis' case, that lesson was learned by his wife Mary (played by Susan Wands), an interesting woman who married C.P. when she was very young and who would later despise his time at the KKK.

There are a few climatic moments at the end that will bring a tear to your eye; those rare moments in which you cry not because you're sad, but because you've just witnessed something so truly beautiful.

"The Best of Enemies" was inspired by the best-selling novel of the same name by Osha Gray Davidson. The play is directed by Julianne Boyd, the Artistic Director of Barrington Stage Company, who brought the original cast of the play's 2011 production to George Street. Ironically, the play wasn't even supposed to be part of this season's lineup. It was actually a late replacement for "Clever Little Lies" which was supposed to star Marlo Thomas. When Thomas was offered a reoccurring role on the television show, "The New Normal", George Street decided to postpone the production. After some maneuvering, George Street was able to bring the entire production of "The Best of Enemies" to town.

The play is the first production to take place on the Arthur Laurents Stage. George Street officially named its main stage after the late playwright on November 30. In a nice touch, the theatre has invited New Brunswick first responders who helped out during Hurricane Sandy to see performances throughout the play's run. A couple of New Brunswick firemen were in the audience and stood to receive a nice ovation from the crowd.

"It's the heroes among us that prove their mettle in times of crisis like this," said George Street's Artistic Director David Saint. While he was talking about the first responders, his words could easily have been for Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis as well -- true American heroes that will inspire you.


Photos by T. Charles Erickson


For more by this author, click here






Circle Players Presents "After The Revolution"
(PISCATAWAY, NJ) -- Circle Players presents After the Revolution by Amy Herzog, weekends from February 1st to February 17th. The production is directed by Alicia Harabin. In the play, Emma Joseph is a bright, hard-working, law school graduate continuing her family’s business of fighting for progressive ideals. 
Black Box PAC Presents "Significant Other"
(TEANECK, NJ) -- Black Box PAC's first main stage show of 2019 is Significant Other by Joshua Harmon. BBPAC is no stranger to Harmon’s work, as one of the first hits at the Black Box Performing Arts Center was Harmon’s hit Bad Jews. Significant Other follows the perpetually single Jordan Berman and his trio of girl friends as they navigate dating, relationships, and supporting those you love. Performances run from January 24 to February 10th.
The Theater Project Presents 5th Annual One-Act Play Competition
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- Which play will be voted Audience Favorite – the romance, the thriller, or the comedy?  And which author will take the $500 Judge’s Award?
Dreamcatcher Presents World Premiere of "Psychodrama"
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre will present the World Premiere of Psychodrama by Montclair playwright Phoebe Farber. This seriocomedy unfolds in a divorce support group where a new leader introduces unorthodox methods that just might work. Psychodrama runs February 14-March 3.
Centenary Stage Presents Henrik Ibsen's "Enemy Of The People"
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Randall Duk Kim and Anne Occhiogrosso headline Centenary Stage Company’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, February 15 through March 3 in the Sitnik Theatre of the Lackland Performing Arts Center, Hackettstown, New Jersey. Adapted by John Alan Wyatt and directed by Anne Occhiogrosso, the production will feature Randall Duk Kim as Doctor Thomas Stockmann supported by an acting company of professional and local talent from the tri-state area and Centenary University. The full-scale production marks the culmination of the 2018 Gates Ferry Lecture Series: “What is Truth?”


Emmy-Winning South Oranger, Andre Braugher
​​​​​​​“I’m Andre Braugher and I’m here at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, SOPAC, rehearsing a new play by Julia Doolittle called ‘Tell Them I’m Still Young.’”
Laiona Michelle Talks About "Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical"
This might be the right time for Nina Simone—15 years after her death. That’s what Laiona Michelle thinks, and, in a way, Michelle will be testing that idea by bringing the singer-activist to life in a world-premiere musical show at George Street Playhouse. Michelle wrote the show—“Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical”—and she will appear in the title role at the New Brunswick theater from January 29 through February 24.
It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 






Event calendar
Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019

Sorry, no events listed for today.
Here are some upcoming events.


2019-01-23
Rechnitz Halls DiMattio Gallery, Monmouth University @ 10:00am
West Long Branch

2019-01-23
Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University @ 7:30pm
West Long Branch

2019-01-24
New Jersey Repertory Company @ 8:00pm
Long Branch






















New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.