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Sugar in Our Wounds

From 14 critic and 46 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Intense, Great writing

About the show

Manhattan Theatre Club presents this lyrical new play, Donja R. Love's exploration of queer love at a pivotal moment in black history. More…

On a plantation, a mystical tree stretches toward heaven. It protects James, a young slave, while he reads newspapers about the imminent possibility of freedom, as the battle rages on. When a brooding stranger arrives, James and his makeshift family take the man in. Soon, an unexpected bond leads to a striking romance, and everyone is in uncharted territory. But is love powerful enough to set your true self free? 

Fordham Observer

“Harrowing new play...Love seamlessly brings together the experience of queer, black America past and present — this tale of slavery, after all, is not set far in the past...It is an artistic, literary and conceptual triumph — not just for the queer black community, but for the greater pursuit of well-made, innovative theater that seeks to tell untold stories — that must be seen...The play is notably led by Berry...She gives a comedic and haunting performance.” Full Review

Broadway Blog

“Profoundly moving and groundbreaking...The theme that may get the most buzz but is only one component of this incredibly layered production...A beautiful love story carried out by two completely dedicated actors...Despite the heavy subject matter and themes, Ali’s direction brings out humor, lightness, and relatable universality to the family dynamics...Simple, timeless, magical storytelling at its finest and a beautiful addition to the NY theater scene. It is what the world needs now.” Full Review


"Exhilarating performances spring from the dramatic tension of the script. Love smartly sets his story in the months before the Emancipation Proclamation, as a whole way of life is on the brink of collapse...Performance and design come together in director Saheem Ali's production, takes full advantage of the high stakes to create a world that is simultaneously enchanted and all too real...’Sugar in Our Wounds’ implausibly manages to find love in the most terrible of circumstances.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

“The play, directed with angry sensitivity by Saheem Ali, possesses a folk tale’s disturbing enchantment, which rises to horror in a final scene that unfolds when Henry returns to the family after he’s had to flee a potential lynching as the result of a rape claim Isabel makes after he declines her advances...Zooms in on a moment in American history that should ideally be deep in the receding past but isn’t. That may be the play’s truest power.” Full Review

Stage Left

“An unabashed love story between two men, slaves, steeped in magic and mysticism, and armed with lyrical, humorous, and sometimes anachronistic dialogue...Love gives his characters the dignity of their full existence. They are funny despite the terror they face, and want the same things all people want: love, community, and freedom...The play is...both sweet and sad...Bristling with humanity and raw emotion—a welcome reclamation well past due.” Full Review


“Love paints in broad strokes, but draws on Afrocentric narrative traditions to conjure a rich palette. His characters are near archetypes, but tenderly drawn. The ensemble buoys them with flesh and blood, rendering an unlikely romance all the more sweet and its harsh circumstance that much more painful.” Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Through this story of adversity, the ensemble brings the audience much laughter and hope...Saheem Ali's direction is top-notch, taking into account the many layers of coded speech and meanings among oppressed people. Every line and facial expression produces immediate reactions...Michael Thurber's original music and Darrell Grand Moultrie's movement shine through in many spiritual songs and dances." Full Review

Time Out New York

"The playwright has taken ethnographic pains to expertly capture the speaking patterns of his characters, and director Saheem Ali weaves together a world that feels like real life, even when the action branches into the supernatural. His ace collaborators include costumer Ayite, choreographer Moultrie and hair and makeup designer Cookie Jordan. Together with a uniformly wonderful cast, they movingly convey 'Sugar’'s central message: Love prevails even in a hopeless place." Full Review


“A handsome and well-acted production…An ambitious drama...This is a play to celebrate what was beautiful in an ugly world, rather than dwell on tragedy or otherness.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"Both Berry and Cozine handle their characters with precision and grace. These are two skilled and devoted actors. Their make their performances look easy, which is why we are glued to their every move. In addition, Love has given them the words that drive the play, and their hold on the reins is unwavering." Full Review

The New York Times

“Fantastically moving and not entirely persuasive...An old-fashioned weepie written in lush, poetic dialect...Its techniques are melodramatic. Its assault on the tear ducts is aggravated. And yet its message is unimpeachable...The script might have been stronger if it had wrestled with its conflicts and explored its desires more truthfully, less ahistorically...A hurts-so-good kind of play, which congratulates the audience for sympathizing with its hugely sympathetic lovers." Full Review


"Director Ali steers this production along a narrow path that runs between the realistic and the fanciful, ensuring that the five fine actors do justice both to what's straightforward and to what's exotic in Love's often poetic, sometimes banal, script...Berry, always convincing as the wisest soul on the plantation, would be reason enough to see 'Sugar in Our Wounds'...Thanks to Berry's Aunt Mama, audiences will recall this tale of bigotry and thwarted love for its humor as well as tragedy." Full Review

The Wrap

"Ali’s direction of the play’s first sex scene is riveting...Uche has far more chemistry with Stewart than Best...Love inadequately explores James’ internalized homophobia...While the two men don’t register much excitement, Berry scores high on the Richter scale when she delivers a surprising monologue on her affairs with other women...Berry carries the show on the shoulders of her earth-grandmother portrayal, a true force of nature in the theater." Full Review


"Regrettably, once he makes a big business of bringing the two lovers together, the playwright has little else to say about slavery, the South or the war...Knowing that the love story of Henry and James is part of a grand dramaturgical design gives it more weight. But experienced on its own, the romance speaks its name but moves on without leaving any echoes from its moment in history." Full Review

Absorbing, Riveting, Epic

See it if about slavery. this is very profound went by so quickly very sad great acting

Don't see it if You are looking for something light & upbeat

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Thought-provoking, Riveting

See it if you want to see a beautiful story filled with poignant moments and amazing acting. The direction was perfect.

Don't see it if you can't handle a real portrayal of racism during the civil war. It gets intense and could be too much for some to handle.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Must see, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see great acting telling a story we know nothing about. I had never given any thought to homosexuality during the Civil War.

Don't see it if if you are averse to simulated sexual acts and curse words; otherwise see it!

Clever, Great acting, Funny

See it if Beautifully directed, scored. Funny. Heartbreaking.

Don't see it if You do not want to acknowledge the mean realities of human slavery.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Profound, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to have your mind blown! It was a roller coaster of emotions but so good that you felt everything the characters felt.

Don't see it if There were many funny and light hearted moments but the overall subject was very intense and made you think a lot

Sensitive & engaged performances, Riveting, Original, Resonant & timely, Exceptional story-telling & writing

See it if seeking a well-crafted story where every character belongs, every word soars, and nothing feels superfluous; a story of black/queer history.

Don't see it if you’re homophobic, racist, or need total realism, since this play does ask you to believe in magic a bit. (Really, though—it’s so worth it.)

Also With humor, love, brutality, and some surrealism, Donja R. Love’s Suga... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Riviting

See it if Very intense. Great story. Loved it

Don't see it if You don’t like plays about slavery

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Epic, Great staging

See it if You're into surrealism, with historical research. Small, intimate, beautifully staged, work of art and {black} love. Heart-warming and gut-

Don't see it if Wrenching. You root for the couple. All 5 actors are good. Almost 2 hours, but, goes by. Lots of "N"-word and slurs. Be advised! Must see!

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Resonant, Profound

See it if You want to be truly touched by brilliant writing, acting, staging. The subject matter was and is relevant for the past 200+ yrs.

Don't see it if You have no interest in contemplating how history has impacted the human spirit & how human beings are consistently human.

Absorbing, Great acting

See it if Despite the brutal confines of slavery, they find ways to be true to themselves, find their heart songs, and experience love.

Don't see it if Slavery or "N word" are triggering. Gay / queer and Black Lives Matter themes annoy you.

Also Ticket from box office for $31.

Thought-provoking, Must see, Riveting, Great staging, Great acting

See it if You want to see an incredible piece of theater involving a love story that couldn’t really come alive during the Civil War.

Don't see it if You absolutely cannot stand civil war era dramas. One act plays are tough for you to sit through.

Also A powerful beautiful story directed and performed exquisitely. Hope to... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Intense, Must see, Resonant

See it if you're intrigued by the concept of a moving and heart-wrenching look at queer love in the Civil War south.

Don't see it if you’re looking for something light or if intense historical dramas don’t appeal to you.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Intense, Resonant

See it if you have any interest in a different love story, the time will fly by. The acting, writing, set and costumes are all superb

Don't see it if if you are not prepared to hear the "N" word or see the queer experience in history with complexity and profound love.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Historical

See it if You want a new take on Southern and/or LGBT history. It’s heart-breaking. My one critique is it’s a bit talky.

Don't see it if You’re not able to consider others peoples lives.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if Well done story of a time that was long ago but might not feel that long ago. Wonderful acting by all five.

Don't see it if you don't want to get close to a family 150 years ago.

Absorbing, Refreshing, Intelligent, Great writing, Clever

See it if A beautiful American drama about slavery and should be seen by all.

Don't see it if Not appropriate for children under 12.

Gay slaves uncivil war melodrama, Gay slaves in civil war melodrama

See it if Touching, if at times mawkish, spiritual portrayal of a slave "family" in the old South. Sheldon Best is the best. Great cast.

Don't see it if The gay love story is memorable, though the outcome is predictable. Fantastic tree makes the set.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Intense, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You are interested in an unusual examination of gay love during slavery written by a young, ambitious, talented playwright.

Don't see it if you're homophobic

Romantic, Intense, Enchanting, Tragic, Funny

See it if Forbidden gay love disrupts slave family on oppressive civil war plantation. Passion overcomes wisdom. Humorous and surprisingly uplifting.

Don't see it if You don't like magical realism. Play is half realistic, half fantasy. Standard cliches are mixed with upended ones. Heavy sexual content.

Absorbing, Great acting

See it if ...

Don't see it if ...

Also I love seeing queer stories and I was involved and engaged at every mi... Read more Read less

Mesmerizing poetic portrayal of lives of black slaves during civil war tho goes astray at end

See it if brilliantly evokes joy/terror slave commty thru rhythmic language/movement, giant "lynching" tree/see below, frank sex, fine perfs

Don't see it if white slave owner daughter racist cliche; 2nd half focus on improbable homosexual relatnship btwn slaves/see below

Also Play makes resonant use of a tree - fed by the blood of many generatio... Read more Read less

Slow, Resonant, Relevant, Intense, Ambitious

See it if You're interested in black, queer history

Don't see it if Slavery and N-word are triggers

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Intense, Relevant

See it if You love good drama and great acting. A powerful story of true love. One of the best plays I seen in a long time. Not to be missed!

Don't see it if You are not a fan of intense dramas. This is about the horrors and brutality of slavery in the days at the start of the Civil War.

Great acting, Masterful, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you care about the issue of slavery and man's inhumanity to man. You know the importance of relationships, You thrill to wonderful acting

Don't see it if you cannot handle any of the above.

Absorbing, Great writing, Great staging, Profound, Intense

See it if You appreciate historical love stories. You welcome fresh stories instead of tropes.

Don't see it if You are triggered by themes of slavery and violence.

Cast & Creatives (12)