The Fountain Theatre presents the West Coast premiere of Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green, a timely and timeless theatrical journey written by Howard L. Craft, directed by Joseph Megel, and starring J. Alphonse Nicholson (Broadway’s Tony award-winning A Soldier’s Play; co-star P-Valley on Starz; Netflix’s They Cloned Tyrone). The limited 21-performance run takes place November 12 through December 16, with low-priced previews beginning November 9.
Nicholson reprises his off-Broadway, tour-de-force star turn as five versions of an African American everyman who travels through time in different incarnations, including a 19th Century minstrel, a faith healer, an FBI informant, a struggling actor, and an out-of-work mortgage broker. In each life, Abel is guided, distracted, helped or hindered by a handful of characters with whom his destiny is forever intertwined. We meet each new iteration of Abel Green on a train, which changes in appearance in accordance with each time period and serves as a link between dimensions.
“Freight operates on the premise that a person’s spirit, or soul, comes to the world because there is something the soul needs to learn,” says Craft. “If the soul does not learn it, then it comes back to the world again and again until it’s successful. The soul can exist concurrently in different time periods, in multiple dimensions of the same universe.”
Inspired by the painting “Slow Down Freight Train” by Rose Piper, the play started out as a 10-minute monologue for North Carolina’s “Activated Art at the Ackland” series. That scene was later expanded in collaboration with Megel and Nicholson to create the current, full-length production.
“The three of us have great chemistry,” Craft explained in an interview. “This is not the first piece we’ve done together. I’m from Durham [North Carolina] and Alphonse is from Greensboro; there are a lot of similarities in these places. He just really gets the rhythm of my writing. And Joseph has a way of pulling things out of an actor, and out of a playwright. He has a very light touch, but he brings so much up.”
Freight earned rave reviews off-Broadway at the New Federal Theatre. “Mr. Nicholson transforms from one Abel to the next in front of us… distinct and entertaining,” raved The New York Times in its “Critic’s Pick” review. New York’s Amsterdam News enthused, “intensely written and stunningly performed,” and Berkshire Fine Arts calls Freight “a superb play.”
Named one of Essence magazine’s “Of the Essence Screen Kings,” Nicolson is a two-time NAACP Image Award nominee for his role inP-Valley, and other notable credits include Just Mercy (Warner Bros.), Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker (Netflix), Blue Bloods (CBS), Mr. Robot (USA), Shots Fired (FOX), Marvel’s Luke Cage (Netflix), Tales (BET), The Blacklist (NBC), and Chicago PD (NBC). In addition to A Soldier’s Play, his theater credits include Signature Theatre’s twice extended off-Broadway premiere of Dominque Morisseau’s Paradise Blue, directed by Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and Days of Rage at 2nd Stage. He was recently seen in the remake of White Men Can’t Jump (Disney/20th Century Studios) and They Cloned Tyrone (Macro/Netflix). Next up: The Sterling Affairs (FX), Black Spartans (Buffalo 8 Productions) and Albany Road.
The creative team for Freight at the Fountain includes scenic designer Joel Daavid; lighting designer Alison Brummer, sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett; video designer Eamonn Farrell; costume designer Danyele Thomas; and props designer Rebecca Carr. The production stage manager is Kaitlyn R. Cramer.
Secure, on-site parking is available for $5. Running time for Freight is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. Patrons are invited to relax before and after the show at the Fountain’s upstairs indoor/outdoor café.