"it's not a trip it's a journey" is a play about four female friends on a cross country trip of self-discovery. The production continues at Round House Theatre through May 8. Cast members include: Dezi Bing (Willie), Erin Margaret Pettigrew (June), Afua Busia (Rain) and Cristina Pitter (Frankie). (Photo courtesy Margot Schulman Photography)
"it's not a trip it's a journey" is a play about four female friends on a cross country trip of self-discovery. The production continues at Round House Theatre through May 8. Cast members include: Dezi Bing (Willie), Erin Margaret Pettigrew (June), Afua Busia (Rain) and Cristina Pitter (Frankie). (Photo courtesy Margot Schulman Photography)

Playwright Charly Evon Simpson takes four female friends on a cross-country trip of self-discovery with a lot of bumps on the road. 

Making its premiere at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, “It’s Not a Trip It’s a Journey,” part of the first annual National Capital New Play Festival, continues through May 8.

The ensemble opens with the character June pulling together her pals for an impromptu trip from New York to the Grand Canyon. As one of the lead players, June, played by Erin Margaret Pettigrew, has long been obsessed with making the journey. As she looks for that elusive “something,” her search also takes her friends on their own individual quests. 

However, the play does not represent well-known female road trip adventures, as featured in the films “Thelma and Louise” or “Road Trip.” As one character aptly describes, “A journey is a long hard vacation!”

Joining June on this journey are actors Dezi Bing as Willie, Afua Busia as Rain and Cristina Pitter as Frankie. “It’s Not a Trip It’s a Journey” is described as a coming together of “wildly different friends traveling through the wondrous and not-so-wondrous sights of the United States [who] must come together to contend with being Black, femme and American … all at the same time.” 

The thread which pulls the friends together is their experiences of despair – emotional traumas that each has previously faced. 

“At its core, ‘It’s Not a Trip It’s a Journey’ is about friendship, community, healing and laughter between Black women and femmes,” Simpson said in notes about her play. “I have also been thinking about the power and the importance of friendships between Black femmes and the way that we are there for each other.”

There are excellent exchanges between characters with dialogue seasoned with comic relief. We see June’s take-charge demeanor broken down to reveal her real purpose for the trip. 

Rain is like a junior detective uncovering what she perceives as the truth about each friend. 

Willie appears to be the level-headed friend but underneath that mask lies something else. 

As for Frankie, armed and ready with quick, smart and funny comebacks, she’s careful to remain behind her own shield which hides her true vulnerability.

We learn from “It’s Not a Trip It’s a Journey” that friendship counts as a very tricky thing. Hanging out for brunch, going shopping, or taking a pottery class together cannot compete with the intensity of being confined to a car or hotels during a lengthy road trip. 

Stuff inevitably comes to the surface – sometimes prompting one to laugh; other times leading one to tears.

Go to Round House Theatre (https://www.roundhousetheatre.org)  for tickets and more information.

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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