Shifting back and forth in time, the play begins as two brothers and their sister come together for the funeral of their father, a strongly motivated black man who had become a respected property owner in the small Southern town where they had grown up. In a series of flashbacks we meet the father, Jack Hamilton, as he tries to inculcate his values and fierce sense of pride into his children, challenging his sons to excel in whatever they undertake, and disparaging the poor young black boy who has shown an interest in his daughter. The spectre of his beloved wife, who died in childbirth, and the presence of Mavis, who replaced her in his household, also shed light on the ultimately destructive effect of Jack's autocratic ways, and the impossibly high standards he has set. Eventually the younger, brighter son falls easily into a life of crime; the older, slower brother settles for meaningless, routine jobs; and the daughter, subjugated and depersonalized by her father's demands, resigns herself to caring for him in his final years. In the end, after squabbling over the division of the estate, the three part—free at last from their father's powerful presence, yet committed, irrevocably, to the destinies which his influence has shaped for them.
Highly imaginative and original in concept, this alternately touching and funny play examines the plight of a strong-willed black father whose desires for his children's success lead instead to their downfall. Successfully produced by New York's famed Negro Ensemble Company. "…a lucid, unpretentious, and subtle play…" —The New Yorker. "…Mr. Edwards writes with enormous sympathy and humor." —NY Times. "…it evokes the alternating moments of emotional richness and distress in family life." —NY Daily News.