by Robert Bell
'THE RIVER NIGER'
7:30 p.m. The Weekend Theater. $12-$16.
The Weekend Theater follows its production of the musical comedy "Monty Python's Spamalot" with a work that is a bit more sober and one that, although it debuted in 1972, has significant parallels to the present day.
"The River Niger," by Joseph A. Walker, concerns Jeff Williams, a young Air Force soldier who returns to his Harlem home after flight-training school, but not as the hero his struggling father had hoped he'd become. Tensions escalate as Williams becomes ensnared in a local gang conflict. The play earned some prestigious awards for Walker, including the Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Playwright and the Obie Award for Best American Play in 1973 and the Tony Award for Best Play in 1974.
A film version was released in 1976, starring James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson and Louis Gossett Jr. The Weekend Theater's production, directed by Akasha Hull and Margaret Parker, runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. through Aug. 24.