dontrell-1In Nathan Alan Davis play “Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea” we go on a voyage through music, dance, and a ritual into an imaginary tapestry of storytelling. History is said to repeats itself, but we are only doomed to relive our past if we fail to learn from it. As the old cliché goes, “you can’t know where you are going until you know where you have been.”

This fable is about a young man by the name of Dontrell Jones III (Jalen Gilbert) who is considered the wonder child of his family. This eighteen-year-old young black man is the protégé of the Davis family who has accepted a full scholarship at John Hopkins University. 

However, before he goes off to college, Dontrell had a dream about his lost ancestor who was captive on a slave ship bound to America, who leaps off during the Middle Passage. Although Dontrell cannot swim, he is suddenly obsessed with exploring the Atlantic Ocean to find his lost ancestor.

In his quest to find more out about his legacy, heritage, and culture, Dontrell takes swimming lessons to make his dream a reality. He goes to a local swimming pool and jumps into the deep end where a pretty lifeguard saves him from drowning. They begin an eccentric romance of trust and love, Danielle (Destiny Strothers) gets her father who also happens to be her uncle to purchase Dontrell a boat to follow his dream of exploring the ocean. 

Unfortunately, for Dontrell his mother (Shariba Rivers) is not on board with his decision to venture into the mysterious waters of a mysterious and haunting past but to merely get enrolled and attend college in a few weeks.

Although Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea” seems simple enough with its mystical interludes of poetry, wordplay, ritual, and humor, it’s layered with revolving melodies of poverty and privilege; as well as parental hopes and ambitions.

dontrell-2This play resonates the necessity for young adults to construct their destiny and the desire we have to understand our backstory for us to understand our future.

The richness and complexity of this play are brought out visually and aurally by Director Chika Ike with her inventive use of space, and her eagerness for experimentation. The play is staged vividly, with startlingly effective physicality.

The audience partakes in sounds of muffled African drumming which is mysterious, potentially ominous which set the ambiance for the play with wooden rafters hung from the ceiling and on the walls.

As the show begins, Dontrell is asleep on what seems like a tiny raft, and a commanding female voice sings an unfamiliar chant. She and the rest of the cast enter, displayed in colorful costumes, There’s a drum, swirling lights, a dream told partially in pantomime, moderately by Dontrell himself, speaking into a hand-held tape recorder in what he fancifully calls “Captain’s Log” entries.  

There are some funny scenes in the play with Dontrell riding in the car with his cousin Robby (Jerome Beck) and his interaction with his sister Erika (Kayla Raelle Holder) and his cousin Shea (Brianna Buckley) who assist him with finding out more about his past.

However, the most powerful scene of the play to us is when his mother expresses her thoughts and feelings about his decision to explore the sea, a mother’s love of trying to guide her child into a destiny of surety, not of the uncertainty of the waves of the sea. 

We recommend that you see Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea at The Den Theater. 

The cast includes

Shariba Rivers (Mom)

Brianna Buckley (Shea)

Jerome Beck (Robby)

Kayla Raelle Holder (Erika)

Brian Nelson Jr (Dad)

Destiny Strothers (Danielle)

Jalen Gilbert (Dontrell)

Floor Theater Presents the First Chicago Premiere of


By Nathan Alan Davis

Directed by Chika Ike

March 4 – 31, 2018 at The Den Theatre


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