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Off Broadway Theater Review - The Night Watcher




picture - The Night WatcherTheater Review

by William Gooch

published October 9, 2009


The Night Watcher

now playing Off Broadway at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theater

through October 31


Most of us have had powerful women in our lives—other than mothers and lovers—who have defined our personality and shaped the course of our destiny. Whether these women are blood relatives or friends of the family, they still play an important role in our development as human beings.


In The Night Watcher, Charlayne Woodard details select moments when she has been called upon to be mentor, surrogate mother, couch psychiatrist, best friend – in other words “auntie” – to the many young people who have needed her guidance and assistance. Though she defines herself as a “blue-collar actress,” Woodard’s flexibility in work schedule and financial means affords her the opportunity to be in the lives of these young people in ways that women who have more restrictive lives could not afford. Still, Woodard is not without her limits, which gets humorously played out in the many vignettes conjured up in this one-woman vehicle.


In quite a few of the scenes, childless Woodard and her husband are asked to step in when friends or relatives are too busy, too overwhelmed, or in some cases, just too damn blind to see that their children or grandchildren are teetering on the precipice of disaster and ruin. In “Indira,” Woodard becomes the confidante of her friend’s pregnant teenaged daughter who has yet to tell her career-obsessed mother that she is with child. Through a series of funny blunders and heated diatribes, Woodard learns that one of the duties of “auntie” is having the wisdom to know when to step aside and let families heal their own wounds.


In “Benamarie,” Woodard must contend with a know-it-all biracial godchild visiting for the summer who is not interested in acknowledging her blackness or anything that does not cost a lot of money. And in “Puppies and Babies,” Woodard is confronted by her mother who distresses over Woodard’s choice to raise dogs and not children.


Through all these real-life struggles, particularly the heart wrenching “West of Heaven” and the inspirational “Nala,” Woodard demonstrates that what is important in the lives of these young people is love and consistency. The Night Stranger also allows Woodard to bring her incredible stage technique and acumen for storytelling to an intimate stage, giving audiences a glimpse into her world of living, loving and giving.


It does take a village to raise a child. And thank God that village includes some remarkable aunties.


williamgooch @


photo by James Leynse


read William Gooch's interview with Charlayne Woodard



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