“I Have a Dream” is a compelling dramatization of the life and times of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Written by Bruce Craig Miller and directed by Foster Solomon, the one-hour, one-act drama is a bit more serious than most Virginia-Rep Children’s Theatre productions. I did overhear a few young audience members — the production is intended for children ages 7 and older — ask about some of the “big words” used by King.
Mike Brown projected a genuine enjoyment in his role as King. He was dignified but approachable.
Jim Bynum, however, was the most animated, in his multiple roles as King’s friends and mentors A. Philip Randolph and Ralph Abernathy, and as his father, Daddy King, whose insistence that his son would grow up to be a preacher became something of a running joke.
Jessi Johnson made a lovely, soft-spoken Coretta Scott King, as well as other female characters, including King’s mother and teacher and Rosa Parks. Johnson’s expression when King, as a doctoral student, proposed on their first date was priceless.
Also exercising their versatility were Adrian Grantz and Lucas Hall, who rounded out the cast by playing all the white characters, from a friendly neighborhood grocer to the notorious Bull Connor (commissioner of public safety for Birmingham, Ala.) and George Wallace (the Southern populist governor of Alabama during the civil rights era).
“I Have a Dream” is, not surprisingly, an entry in the 2016 Acts of Faith festival for its examination of faith as a force in the civil rights movement. While written for a young audience, it does not shy away from some of the harsher realities of the movement, such as mention of the Ku Klux Klan, bombings, assassinations and, perhaps most poignant, Connor’s orders to use fire hoses and police dogs on children and then arrest and jail them during a massive, nonviolent march in Birmingham in 1963.
The noticeable lack of music may fail to hold the attention of the youngest audience members, but the neatly condensed accounting of the life and times of King justify a field trip for students.