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Theatre & Company draws on expert help for its production of "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men." 

Little Shop of Harlem

If your show is set in a barber shop, who do you turn to for production advice? A barber, of course. Luckily for Tony Cosby, director of Theatre & Company's "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men," he knew just the guy. Herbert "Doe" Massenburg, who has performed in previous T&C shows, is also a barber at Dave's Barber Shop at 18th and Main streets downtown. Not only will Massenburg lend his drawling baritone to the character of Blue Haven in "Old Men," he's lending the play its pivotal set piece, an authentic barber's chair. According to Cosby, a powerful energy emanates from the chair. "Even when I'm in the theater by myself, I keep getting the feeling like there is someone here with me," he says.

"Old Men" tells the story of Parker, an aging Harlem barber in the 1960s (played by Cosby), his daughter and two sons. The men in the family aren't interested in working so they sign up with Blue Haven, a local crime boss who tries to pass himself off as a civil rights advocate. They turn Parker's shop into a front for bootlegging and running a numbers racket, defying the only working member of the family, Parker's daughter, Adele (Glorine Cousins). While the show has plenty of laughs, the family's criminal activities are destined to have tragic consequences.

According to Massenburg, Richmond had its share of criminal goings-on during the '60s. "I saw barber shops that were fronts for all sorts of things," he says. "They'd be sponsoring some softball team and running liquor at night."

Even though it is set more than 30 years ago, "Old Men" still resonates today. "The show is about the ceremonies people go through when their lives haven't gone the way they wanted," Cosby says. "It's like they're singing the same song over and over."

"Ceremonies in Dark Old Men" plays at Passions, 5104 Richmond Henrico Turnpike, at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 4:30 p.m. Sundays through June 12. Tickets are $17. Call 329-8006 for
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