Play 'Broken Windows' looks at choices, decisions

March 22, 2013 3:58:50 PM PDT
A single mother who works long hours leaves the oldest in charge, only to learn that it's an invitation to trouble.

WATCH: Broken Windows trailer

''Broken Windows'' may sound like a familiar story, but this is a tale with a twist.

The lead character is 19-year-old Michael White -- the oldest of six rambunctious brothers. He struggles to parent in place of his working mother and absent father. Actor Brandon Lewis says he can personally relate.

"As I was growing up, my father was not in the household at all. I was dependent on my mom and grand mom to do things for me and my mom was busy working," Lewis said. "I had to help out with my little sister and brother. It was, of course, a load on me."

Whether the character allows the lure of the streets to detour a promising future is a common dilemma that young men face. Playwright Cassandra Bell says the violence in our neighborhoods is evidence that too many are making the wrong decisions.

"It deals with the gun violence that we are facing here in the city of Chicago, but it deals with gun violence from the perspective of placing kids in very difficult situations and giving them alternative solutions," Bell said.

Professionally, Bell counsels detainees at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. While she does not represent the facility in any official capacity, Bell says what she sees every day on the job greatly influences her work on the stage.

"I see so much the negative effect of the community, the lack of parenting, the lack of fathers, the lack of understanding empathy. Our kids don't even understand empathy," Bell said.

Dasaun Sanford plays Lucian, a gang-banger who terrorizes the neighborhood. In real life, he also works with detainees. He hopes his volunteer work here can help change the course for youth who are on the wrong path.

"It's easy to tell people to stop doing what you're doing. Don't do what you're doing. Do the right thing. But that's not the reality of it. You got to tell them how to do it," Sanford said.

As for leading man Michael White, you'll have to see the show to see how his story ends. Bell hopes the performance will help other young men make smarter choices and have fewer tragic endings.

"You have to learn early how to make effective choices and decisions because based on those decisions, it can cost you your life," Bell said.

"Broken Windows" takes to the stage at the Harold Washington Cultural Center next Friday, March 29th. Get tickets to the one-day evet at