Inda Craig-Galván’s new play, Black Super Hero Magic Mama, tells the story of a grieving mother with a twist that is humorous and sends the audience into a comic book world.
The play, which will be running at the Geffen Playhouse until April 14, centers around Sabrina Jackson, a widow and single mother to her 14-year-old son, Tramarion, in Chicago. Tramarion is a sweet kid, highly involved in academics, and creates comic books in his spare time. That is, until he is fatally shot by a police officer. Throughout the play, we see Jackson’s emotions and the highs and lows of her grieving process.
“Black Super Hero Magic Mama is something that I started in grad school three years ago and it was inspired by how the press and media treated the mothers of Black men and women who were victims of police shootings,” said the playwright, Craig-Galván. “The mothers in these horrible incidents are expected to go out, lead people, calm people, and do all of this work. They deserve the respect and space to heal and to grieve. They shouldn’t be used as political props.”
Jackson decides that she is not going to talk to anyone, not her family, not friends of her son, and especially not the media. She takes her time to grieve and be alone in her thoughts. This sends her to a comic book world created by her son where she is the Maasai Angel. In this world, Jackson is strong, powerful, and outspoken. She lets out her rage and takes her revenge on the people who she feels are responsible for her son’s death. Full of witty humor and dialogue, the audience goes from feeling sad for Jackson to laughing and cheering on her alter ego, the Maasai Angel.
“The story is endearing and charming, and you can easily fall into the world of it. Even though it’s in a superhero world, there were so many parallels to the real world. It was commentary that was so funny but so true,” said Deja Bowen, one of the audience members. “It’s a very great show that is fun, but also about parenting, how to deal with grief, and how people process things differently.”
The first act is mainly set in Tramarion’s bedroom, which has a lot of blue tones, while the second act is full of vibrant colors and costumes. The second act is playful and dramatic with tons of superhero and comic book references. Craig-Galván wanted to pay homage to the fantasy worlds that her children grew up with, like Harry Potter and the Wizard of Oz. She also pays homage to Black history as Tramarion is part of an academic competition, Know Your Heritage. Throughout the play, Jackson and Coach Corey Brackett quiz Tramarion on leaders and innovators in the Black community.
“Sabrina Jackson is very connected to her community as she has her son involved in things that will culturally and personally enrich him. She is trying to instill self-awareness and self-love to protect her African-American son in a world and system that will target him,” said Kimberly Hébert Gregory, who play Jackson. “We haven’t nationally figured out how to appropriately address these police shootings. I appreciate being in this play that opens dialogue, while being engaging, fun, and showing the humanity in people.”
Gregory gives so much life to Jackson as a mother. She shows love, compassion, power, and grief. Black Super Hero Magic Mama shows a new side of police brutality and how media brands traumatic experiences. It brings up some serious issues, while keeping things playful and fun. It also shows the importance of support and the misconceptions on how to talk to someone who is grieving.
The playwright is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California’s Dramatic Writing Master’s Program and has surrounded this play with a great cast and production team. For information about tickets, cast members, and production, visit www.geffenplayhouse.org.