Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Great writing, Resonant

About the show

Roundabout Underground presents this new drama about a young man in the early '60s who joins the Freedom Riders.

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Tennessee-born playwright Jiréh Breon Holder takes us back to Nashville in the summer of 1961. The Freedom Riders are embarking on a courageous journey into the Deep South. When 20-year-old Bowzie Brandon gives up a life-changing college scholarship to join the movement, he’ll have to convince his loved ones—and himself—that shaping his country’s future might be worth jeopardizing his own.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Talkin' Broadway

"This is an exceptional work, one that will dive-bomb into your head and your heart...Directed with fierce intensity by Margot Bordelon and featuring a stellar cast...'Too Heavy For Your Pocket' is remarkable for the depth of its exploration of a tumultuous time in our history. Playwright Jiréh Breon Holder has managed to captivate the audience by examining issues of race, gender, power, faith, and politics without ever losing sight of his characters." Full Review

Off Off Online

“An engrossing new drama…Playwright Holder has created intricate, recognizable characters and dialogue that bristles with verisimilitude. Under Margot Bordelon’s direction, the four fine actors form a beautifully balanced ensemble…A top-notch production…The artistic intelligence, psychological insight, and native talent on view in 'Too Heavy for Your Pocket' would have demanded expression regardless of the playwright’s advantages and good fortune.” Full Review


"The play and this production bristle with ideas that bring fresh news to a familiar tale...Director Margot Bordelon’s sensitive staging honors that intimacy in its no-nonsense, fuss-free simplicity and elegance. Most important is the astonishing caliber of the four actors in these roles, each drawn as if by a laser printer, with no small amount of help from a gifted writer who will be amazing to watch as his work grows." Full Review


"A terrific cast of four, under the sterling direction of Bordelson, must be credited for making this play a thoroughly worthwhile and memorable experience...A compelling narrative that is mainly revealed through a young man with a mission...The action is cleverly staged in and around the kitchen setting that allows for other locations. It is the feeling of home and kinship that pervades even as we see how impulsive decisions, no matter how righteous and well-meaning, alter perspectives." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Holder artfully entangles the four characters in a web of secrets and resentments...At the same time, ‘Too Heavy for Your Pocket’ is an acute picture of lives transformed by larger social forces...The process by which the characters fight their way toward some kind of solid ground is illuminated by Bordelon's observant direction and four first-rate performances...A lively, powerful piece of writing supported by a band of interesting new talents.” Full Review

Stage Left

"Starkly relevant...Each member of this remarkable cast gives raw, rich, and natural performances under the smart direction of Margot Bordelon...While Act II descends into melodrama that nearly cheapens the central theme and plot, on the whole, 'Too Heavy for Your Pocket' offers a fresh take on oft-trodden ground, exploring questions each of us must ask of ourselves...'Too Heavy' offers a fresh take on oft-trodden ground...This play is a must see." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Holder is putting his finger on something powerful, something that Fight for Freedom narratives don’t necessarily get at: Protesting is a privilege...Holder’s prose does occasionally tip toward heavy-handedness. But it’s a credit to Bordelon’s deft touch and to Okafor’s raw power that here the notes ring true...As the characters struggle for air, so do we. Inhaling and exhaling in a room together: It’s the simplest reality of theater and sometimes the most important." Full Review


"Better than any play I've seen on the subject, 'Too Heavy for Your Pocket' examines the role of class in our nation's civil rights struggle...All four actors deliver excellent performances...Director Margot Bordelon balances the conflicting tones of the play through an even-keeled production...We grow to love the four characters, which keeps us invested in a play that occasionally meanders to the point of dullness." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"A flawed but interesting work by promising young playwright Holder...The second act, while more dramatic, was also more disjointed. Some of the developments seemed forced and others seemed unlikely. The ending is rather flat...The actors are strong and quite plausible in their roles...Director Bordelon would do well to tighten up the first act. All in all, it was a worthwhile but not wholly satisfactory experience." Full Review

The New York Times

"Stylistically old-fashioned, it feels as familiar and earnest as a pew. And yet its formal conservatism almost seems daring when paired with content that many may find, as I did, illuminating and moving...'Too Heavy' dramatizes questions of class difference within the black community that rarely get broached onstage...When Mr. Holder gets too earnest about it, the play bogs down...Intermittently, a fine production, directed with verve by Margot Bordelon and handsomely designed." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Even in the stronger second section of the play, Holder can over-sugar his characters—the domestic quarrels approach soapiness—and Bordelon has the actors perform broadly, which can be startling in a space as small as the Roundabout Underground. But Okafor has a beautiful quality of stern patience, which carries us through the more sentimental sequences. She seems to age before our eyes, her happiness turning into a deep, steady disappointment." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great writing

See it if Great significant story and storytelling. Touching and poignant. Great acting and beautiful set. Important.

Don't see it if you don't care about issues of race and class struggle.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if You want to see great performances in an intimate space. Characters are well written & easily draw you into this moving story.

Don't see it if You are looking to see something that is light and fluffy.

Absorbing, Great acting, Profound, Resonant, Riveting

See it if An intense story of two couples living in Tenn in 1961. Their lives are beginning to be impacted by the freedom demonstrations. Well acted!

Don't see it if If you prefer light dramas or musicals.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Masterful, Great writing

See it if you love brilliantly-acted, brilliantly-written character-driven stories. Some great music, too!

Don't see it if See it!

Great acting, Heartfelt, Complicated

See it if you want to see a fine ensemble cast in an earnest well-meaning work about an important topic, with lots of ins and outs and ups and downs.

Don't see it if you'll be confused by tangential red herring plot lines, or a story that, while wrought w/ emotion, doesn't satisfy as it might.

Also With its staid style of storytelling, the piece has the feel of a clas... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Intelligent, Slow, Terrific ensemble work from a cast of 4

See it if you want to experience the work of a new writer, Jiréh Breon Holder. Also, Margot Bordelon's direction makes great use of the space.

Don't see it if you are not interested in plays with political/historical themes.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Engaging, Warm

See it if you're looking for a drama about people's relationships set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement and the Freedom riders.

Don't see it if you're expecting more of a historical play. This is more of a human play that is set amidst history.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Great writing

See it if Wow! Wow wow wow! What performances! A small story that personalizes an important event in American history.

Don't see it if This show was amazing. Only those with no heart at all could fail to be moved.

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you're interested in significant subjects like civil rights, economic struggles, and marital stress. The acting and singing is superb.

Don't see it if you prefer light comedies or musicals. This is a serious play addressing serious issues in a thoughtful way.

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if You want an interesting take on the movement from the perspective of everyday people

Don't see it if You expect it to be solely about the experience of the freedom riders and have no patience for a couple of soapy elements

Absorbing, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Disappointing

See it if Interesting & uncharted look a civil rights movement via 'common folks' viewpoint Well acted & crafted (on downhome set) w/great soundscape

Don't see it if Despite the class issues influencing the characters, author Holder allows the plot to slide into soap opera Still compelling but unsatifying

Absorbing, Clever, Relevant, Resonant

See it if if you like well-developed stories about racial issues or about marital relationships, blue collar workers and difficult friendships.

Don't see it if if you do not like stories which examine struggles, whether economical, marital or racial, and you prefer happy easy-going stories.

Absorbing, Great acting, Totally believable

See it if you are interested in viewing life through a lens of those who lived in the period of segregation and how they felt.

Don't see it if you are not interested in historically based performances by a SUPERB cast!

Absorbing, Great acting, Riveting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You want to see well trained actors like colts out of the barn settle into a mature, touching, heart felt play. Song naturalistically arise

Don't see it if You wouldnt be here if race was an issue.

Also These 4 characters were drawn so distinctively that you feel as if you... Read more Read less

Shows real human cost behind freedom fighting in civil rights movement

See it if does a fabulous job of getting atmospherics behind 1961 black middle class life/strong women, weak men; gospel singing animates; strong cast

Don't see it if plot predictable; playwright can't figure out where to take the story in 2nd act; motivation 4 freedom fighting expressed in hackneyed terms

Well acted, Elegant direction, Uneven script alternately engaging and predictible

See it if you want to discover a new playwright exploring some fresh aspects of the Freedom Rides; want to enjoy a quartet of mostly unknown actors

Don't see it if you're impatient with soap opera elements (though rooted in specifics of time and place, they remain stereotypical); you want a resolved end

Great acting, Indulgent, Entertaining, Great staging, Facile writing

See it if Fine acting and staging are sufficient to overcome shallow writing.

Don't see it if Incisive writing is a necessity for you to see or enjoy a play.

Absorbing, Refreshing, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you like small, well put together productions about the Freedom Riders. Well acted and resonant today, worth seeing!

Don't see it if You aren't into historical dramas about civil rights.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Riveting, Great writing

See it if You want to see a story about a period of American history rarely portrayed on stage. An fine study of four black friends in 1961 Nashville.

Don't see it if I would not miss this powerful play.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting, Entertaining

See it if you want to see an intelligent, human story of African Americans in 1961 Nashville with interesting characters.

Don't see it if you want a light entertainment.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Still relevant, Still painful

See it if You like plays with historical context. You like seeing the personal stories of characters lived during these times.

Don't see it if You want more action than words, you have no patience of the small Everyman deciding if or how to put his mark on history.

Also I knew about the Freedom Riders. I knew how hard the struggle for inte... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you like new plays, interested in African-American playwrights, appreciate well-directed, well-acted productions with integrity

Don't see it if You're not interested in African-American plays, have issues dealing with the freedom riders and civil rights movement, prefer the classics

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you want to see a wonderful, meaningful, well acted play.

Don't see it if you dislike stories about what Afro -Americans suffered in the US in the 1960's

Also Play is outstanding and shouldn't be missed.

Relevant, Appealing, Great characterizations, Superb acting, Wonderful writing

See it if you are interested in US race issues, enjoy characters that one can identify with, care about and analyze, excellent direction and acting.

Don't see it if you dislike serious study of people laboring to overcome difficult problems with interrelationships, minority status and economic struggle.

Great acting, Must see, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You appreciate historical tales that allow a personal window into well-known movements & events. You enjoy heartfelt writing and characters.

Don't see it if You do not enjoy magical realism.

Cast & Creatives (11)