Keep your Head up… in “The Bitter Game” @ The Wallis

“The Bitter Game,” which just completes its run at the Wallis Annenberg Promenade Terrace, is a sophisticated, honest telling of a hugely important subject matter affecting our society today, more than ever, and that is: black lives matter. Keith A. Wallace literally walks the audience through the ill fated day of the life of Jamel Smith, and handles this portrayal with poise, finesse, and clarity, along with an impressive wide range of emotion. By show’s end, there is nary a dry eye, and the audience feels completely connected to Jamel Smith and his family, and can vividly visualize all that he went through in his short lived life, as an African American young man. This true story, much like many other stories of lives cut short and gone too soon, provides a platform for a star making performance for the innately talented Wallace. The show is unique in that it is held in the courtyard of the Wallis, and the audience walks from sequence to sequence, as the depth and sadness escalates. It begins with levity, as Jamel plays a game of hoops in his Philly neighborhood, amidst the music and friends in a neighborhood block party. This solo show is indeed a brilliant balancing act between dark & light; anger & optimism; white privilege & black fury, with theatre being the perfect galvanizing force for social change. In a safe space, it tackles this serious ongoing issue we face today, of racism and police violence in staggering numbers. Keith Wallace delivers a stunning, heart felt performance. Perhaps the most memorable part of the show was the final scene, where the audience members are led to a shrine, as it were, and are given candles and the opportunity to name out loud the numerous victims of police brutality; truly a gathering storm/crescendo of ferocity and feeling. This literally brought to light the truth behind people who experience this unjust treatment daily and the grieving mothers left behind. It’s been too long a silence on this matter. Keith Wallace is a poignant speaker/symbol for Jamel Smith. This epidemic has been non stop and we need change.

About Bonnie Priever Curtain Up!

I am a theatre reviewer extraordinairre. I attend and cover theatres ranging from large to small venues, and every subject from musical theatre to dramatic presentations. Also please check out my reviews at and my email is
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