This “meta–soap opera” . . . abounds with matchless talkers, improvisers, and scene-stealers.Melissa Anderson, 2018 Ten Best List, Artforum
Vertamae Grosvenor, Walter Cotton, Jim Wright, Sam Waymon,
Personal Problems, conceived by Oakland-based writer Ishmael Reed, is a black soap opera unfolding in the melancholy of the blues. Enlisting legendary Bill Gunn as director, Reed and producer Walter Cotton sketched out an improvisatory scenario exploring the moody tribulations of a group of Harlem residents. Johnnie (Vertamae Grosvenor), a nurse, is the heart and hearth of the affair. Around her spin her husband, a transit worker; his father, and a circle of friends and neighbors. Reed’s down-to-earth drama is not an anti-soap; rather, it’s a naturalistic expansion of the form, adding ethnicity to the language of the everyday. And, like the blues, Personal Problems sings of the survivors.