The Bitter Game

A one-man show.

Being Black in America...

Basketball. Cops. Coping with trauma. 

With its five acts structured as the four quarters and overtime of a basketball game, THE BITTER GAME takes us on a ride through North Philly on a night we won’t soon forget. This multi-character performance tells the story of Jamel Smith, who witnesses a neighborhood act of violence as a child and later must learn to navigate his interactions with police. Based on the playwright-actor Keith A. Wallace’s youth in Philadelphia, this solo performance charged with pain, poetry and laughter, brilliantly explores the experience of being Black in America.

THE BITTER GAME blends verse, prose and ‘sh*t-talkin’ into a stirring commentary that forces audiences to examine the damaging effects of racism, the epidemic of excessive force and police murder, the ripple effects of trauma in communities of color and the value of Black lives in this country.

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"high-impact… a sharp reminder of the persuasive powers of live theater."

- Ben Brantley New York Times

Originally staged as an immersive outdoor experience on a basketball court, THE BITTER GAME runs 55-minutes without intermission. THE BITTER GAME was commissioned by The La Jolla Playhouse for the 2015 International WoW Festival and has since been staged both in and outside of traditional black box theater spaces.

The show has successfully toured nationally and abroad including stops in NYC (The Public Theater) Los Angeles (The Skirball Cultural Center), Washington, DC (The Kennedy Center), Boston (The American Repertory Theater) and Dublin, Ireland (headlining the Dublin Theater Festival).

Suitable for ages 14+
Contains strong language, violence and content that some may find distressing.

Check the Tickets page for upcoming performances.

Cast and Creative Team 

Created, Written and Performed by Keith A. Wallace
Originally Directed and Co-created by Deborah Stein
Associate Director: Malika Oyetimein
Stage Managers: Kamra A. Jacobs, Mandisa Reed, Plato Seto
Lighting and Scenic Designer (Tour): Nick Mansfield
Set Design (Inaugural): Charlie Jicha
Lighting Design (Inaugural): Brandon Rosen
Sound Design: Mikaal Sulaiman
Costume Design: Melissa Ng
Costume Art Direction: Walter Myrick