“Primary Trust,” which recently played at the Roundabout Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (W. 46th Street), was the Roundabout play debut for African American playwright Eboni Booth. I hope she will be bringing a lot more work in the future. This play used humor, tragedy, trauma, mental illness, and finding a way to take another path in life to beautifully deliver a message of hope.

There were times when the audience was smiling and laughing; other times you could hear sniffling. There were times when the lead character, Kenneth, let himself become vulnerable and spoke directly to the audience, breaking the fourth wall; at times he cried as he shared his traumatic life experiences.

Kenneth walked through the audience onto the stage, looked at everyone, and shared his name and that he is a 38-year-old man. He described the small town that he lived in as Cranberry, New York, a suburb of Rochester. He lived a very lonely life. He had been through trauma since the age of 10 and it had forced his mind to create a means to cope that included an imaginary best friend named Bert. Although Kenneth is now a grown man with a job, Bert is still his best and only friend.

Kenneth was raised by a single mother who moved him to this small community as a child. They were very close. In fact, he shared that he feared his mother would leave him at daycare and not come back.

At the age of 10, Kenneth found himself in a world that was foreign and frightening. His mother became ill and died; he was placed in the system, and eventually was helped to get a job at a bookstore in town. Kenneth had a routine in his sad life for some time. On Fridays, he would go to the local Tiki restaurant and drink Mai Tais alone. He would talk to his best friend, the imaginary Bert.

When the bookstore owner had to close the store and move to Arizona for health reasons, Kenneth was not sure what would become of him. (The bookstore owner and his wife had accepted Kenneth’s talking to Bert while in the store.)

Throughout the play, we saw Kenneth and his awkwardness in public, even at his favorite Friday night spot, ordering his favorite drinks. Slowly, Booth has the character reveal all that happened when his mother died and why Bert truly exists and continues to be in Kenneth’s life.

This play was movingly written and touched the heart. It made you realize that people can go through experiences in their lives that you couldn’t begin to imagine or understand. Those experiences then lead them to find ways to cope in day-to-day life.

This play truly made one realize that you should not judge anyone, because you don’t know where they’ve been. We all deserve a chance at some type of happiness and normalcy, but when life does not afford you that, what might you be forced to do to face each day?

I loved the fact that when Kenneth does end up getting a job after the bookstore closes, he is hired by a man who is sympathetic to his unique, shy, guarded persona. His new boss wanted to give him a chance and that was amazing.

When Kenneth talked to the audience, you almost felt like a therapist listening to a patient vent and wanting so much to give them helpful advice. You wanted to say, “You’ve been through so much, but you can make it. You are important! You are seen! And you can contribute to society!”

The cast was absolutely stunning. William Jackson Harper delivered a phenomenal performance as Kenneth. He took us on an emotional rollercoaster that made us have to strap in tight and hold onto the belt so that we wouldn’t be thrown from the ride. He brought every ounce of passion, vulnerability, sadness, grief, and anger to the role.

Eric Berryman played Bert, Kenneth's imaginary friend, and was marvelous.

April Matthis played multiple roles with great ease. She is such a gifted actress in anything that she takes on. In this production, she delivered several characters with humor, kindness, and sympathy.

Jay O. Sanders was completely incredible in the multiple roles that he played. This theater veteran always brings his A-game to the stage!

Luke Wygodny provided musical accompaniment and sound effects, which moved the action along. The direction of Knud Adams was powerful.

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