In 2007, New Orleans City Councilman Oliver Thomas admitted he took a bribe. The charismatic Thomas had been popular among black and white voters, and many had high expectations for his career. Upon his conviction, he was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. His fall from grace has been well-documented, but Thomas wanted his story to be heard — straight from his mouth. Anthony Bean and Thomas created Reflections: A Man and His Time, which had an extended run at the Anthony Bean Community Theater in 2011. Reflections2 is an updated version of the play with a reworked Act 2.
The show is framed by the narration of reporter John Barren (Charles Bosworth). This frame gives audience background information and perspective, but it was distracting at the end. Bosworth delivered some funny asides and did a nice job of letting the jokes settle.
The material is biographical and Thomas plays himself, as do former New Orleans School Board President Gail Glapion and former City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis.
The night before Thomas resigns his seat on the council, six pastors and bishops gather in his living room to offer personal if not political support and find out what happened. Their presence gives voice to a community largely full of past and present supporters. Some feel betrayed by Thomas; some stand to lose political power they helped him achieve. Pastor John Seamore (Harold X. Evans) was funny and gave a nuanced opinion of Thomas' actions. To Seamore, the matter is more complicated than right or wrong because Thomas' choice was made in a biased system designed to make him fail. Seamore and Bishop Stevens (Alfred Aubry) talk frankly about race relations in New Orleans, one of the major focuses of the show.
In prison, Thomas meets a young inmate named Donte (Alvin Green), who tells him about his dangerous life in New Orleans. Donte is a powerful character, in part because he is a young man beginning a 22-year prison sentence. Green balanced Donte's outward toughness with his emotional vulnerability.
At times Thomas was reserved, but he has a likable stage presence. He was most impressive when interacting with his wife Angelle Thomas (Gwendolyne Foxworth). The couple's relationship was strained before Thomas' sentence, and after his release, things get worse. Thomas forgets his wedding anniversary, and Foxworth becomes furious — a hot-blooded and hilarious foil to his even temper.
Written by Thomas and Bean, who also directs the show, Reflections2 is full of real-life drama. We get a peek into the personal life of a man who helped shape recent New Orleans history. — TYLER GILLESPIE