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Emotional baggage causes tension in 'Things'

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News

In the stage play "Things Your Man Won't Do," actress Tichina Arnold plays a professionally fulfilled woman struggling to find a man with whom she can share her life.

Sadly, even after she finds a potential mate (played by Brian White, "Stomp the Yard" and "With This Ring), the emotional baggage both of them bring to the relationship threatens to keep them apart.

Arnold said she can relate to her character Rachel's romantic trials and thinks a lot of audience members will, too, particularly black women. "Things Your Man Won't Do," will have a three-performance, two-day run Friday and Saturday at the Detroit Opera House and is written, directed and produced by Je'Caryous Johnson.

"I was one of those black women before I got married," said Arnold, 45, during a recent phone interview. The star of "Martin," "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Survivor's Remorse" has been married to her second husband, Rico Hines, for three years. "I was a single, divorced mother and I wasn't fulfilled. We all go through problems with love and even problems with loving ourselves.

"I've always wanted to convey this type of story," she added. "Je'Caryous is doing a great job allowing actors to portray these roles. It's a really good cast of people and it's a good storyline."

In addition to Arnold and White, "Things Your Man Won't Do" also stars Wendy Raquel Robinson ("The Game") and Leon ("The Five Heartbeats").

"This is a timely piece about how past relationships impact our present," Johnson said. "More importantly, it's about knowing who to be in a relationship with — not only from an equally yoked standpoint, but one of faith so that you don't act out of fear of being lonely."

Johnson said audience members will enjoy the honest and masculine perspective found in "Things Your Man Won't Do," as well.

"For him, taking the relationship to the next level means focusing singularly on her," Johnson said regarding the couple in his play. "For her, the next level means marriage. Men and women want the same things. They want to be loved, respected and cherished. But our timelines are different."

Seeing women and men struggle with love and timing in front of a live audience also gives the play and its message a more intimate and personal approach, Arnold said.

"There is nothing like live theater," said Arnold, a Queens, New York, native who got her start in theater and landed her first film role in "Little Shop of Horrors" at age 17. "You get to hear people. You get to hear them laugh. You know how black people do. We like to yell at the TV and the stage. But I love it and I'm happy to be back on the stage. It's a different energy. It's exciting."

Arnold said she is also excited to be back in Detroit. Although she's been here a number of times for work, she'd never seen the Garden Court Apartment building on Jefferson in person where Martin was supposed to live on the show until now. She even took a picture in front of the building for her Instagram and Twitter pages. While in town, Arnold is also promoting her foundation, We Win ( It's a nonprofit inspired by her sister Zenay Arnold that helps patients, families and caregivers suffering with Lupus and other related autoimmune diseases.

To raise awareness and help those in need, Arnold is giving away tickets to "Things Your Man Won't Do" on the We Win Twitter page (@WeWinFoundation).

"Detroit is such an amazing city, not just for its history, but the people," Arnold said. "The cold I could do without. But outside of the cold, it's always a pleasure to be in Detroit."

'Things Your Man Won't Do'

8 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday

Detroit Opera House

1526 Broadway, Detroit

Tickets $45-$63