REVIEWS BY INOLA’S M. MCGUIRE
“Under the One-Time Sky” by Susan Jennifer Polese, directed by Leta Tremblay; starring Adam LaFaci and Michelle Concha.
This play addresses the rape of a sister by her older brother in the yard of their home, and the witness of this act comes back to his old neighborhood to visit Christine, the victim. Christine’s mother did not believe her accusation. The writer gets her message across to the audience. It opens up with a setting of potting soil, pots and other garden supplies along with beets and lettuce seeds.
Dwight tries to know what is really going on in Christine’s life after not seeing each other for fifteen years. She gives him vague information about her life. Dwight pushes for more information from her, and Christine talks about their mean neighbor and how he confiscates the items on his property from the children in the neighborhood. Christine and Dwight’s chitchat goes around in circles for a while, but Dwight tells Christine about his career, his travels, and his award he received a day earlier. After the ceremony, the incident of the rape of Christine comes back to Dwight, and he realizes he can’t hide what he sees in his mind. One can’t hide from his or her memory. The truth sets you free.
Christine tells Dwight about her brother’s life in the community as a landlord, little league coach, and a volunteer Fire fighter. Dwight talks about the emptiness in his life and he wants to save Christine this time around. Dwight’s words are full of holes! Christine looks at him as always a visitor in her mind. From their childhood, his visits to her home always conclude with a timeline when he had to leave.
In reality, how can someone live with the viciousness and violation of a rape by your own flesh and blood without counseling? This type of abuse is hard to fathom and the victim needs to get help. For Christine’s character, the audience without doubt empathizes with her. Without any reservation, I recommend this play to all theatre goers before the end of the festival on August 2, 2015.
“Biblically Speaking” by Rev. Lucy Blood, directed by Kate Gilbert; starring Rev. Lucy Blood.
This one-woman show by Rev. Blood amazingly gets her message across to the audience like a preacher who tries to save souls for the kingdom of God from the pulpit. She incorporates her seminary’s training and the politics of being a woman in the ministry in a humorous manner with her monologue and singing. Her interpretation of Eve’s contribution in the Old Testament brings new light on her eating of the apple and her sharing of it with Adam. In Eve’s case, she recognizes her nakedness, she out lived her son, Abel; and she experiences real death. This centuries-old story of Eve’s disobedience still permeates into the lives’ of women today.
Rev. Blood reminds the audience of women’s equality in the right context when opportunities were limited for girls a few decades ago. For example, girls were unable to participate in male dominated sports like baseball and football. In addition, certain musical instruments were off limit to women, too. Further into her presentation, the performer takes the audience into the life of another biblical woman, Noah’s wife, Ena. Rev. Blood wears an umbrella on her head in her routine as a hat to imply it is raining. Noah’s name in the bible represents the flood, and his obedience to God’s will saved him and his family along with all of the animals in the ark from total destruction.
Sarah, the wife of Abraham, became the matriarch of the Jewish nation because she conceived and gave birth to Isaac, a child of the promise. Sarah was way past her child-bearing years, but God has always been a miracle worker and he fulfilled his promise in the Old Testament. Rev. Blood shares her concerns with the audience about Sarah’s life. She puts on a head scarf and brings the audience into a reflective mood of how Sarah’s life would have been like in the olden days. The audience relishes the warm and caring presentation of such a great woman in the Bible.
Rev. Blood introduces the audience to Elizabeth, the mother of Jesus’ forerunner and the wife of Zachariah. The hands of God touched another woman in the Bible. Elizabeth and her husband became the parents of John the Baptist. Rev. Blood tells the story to the audience as though she witnessed the event.
Last but not least, Rev. Blood brings into existence the life of Mary Magdalene to the audience as a follower of Jesus. The audience takes in the story as children in a Sunday school class with the utmost admiration for the Biblically Speaking performance. This show is a must-see for theatre goers who enjoy Bible stories and reading the Bible. Praise God!
“Death of the Persian Prince” by Dewey Moss, directed by Dewey Moss; starring Gopal Divan, George Faya, and Pooya Mohseni.
This play educates the audience from the stage about a very serious issue that has had long-term effect for a few decades on a segment of the population in Iran. The audience sees James and Samantha in the same room, yet they are miles apart in their conversation politically, emotionally, and socially. Samantha refuses to give James some straight-forward answers to his questions. She dodges his questions through double talking her way out being truthful, instead of exposing herself. She runs to the alcohol as her refuge. The couple entertains the audience.
Samantha runs out of alcohol. Being Mr. Good Guy and an ex-Marine, James, volunteers to buy more alcohol for his friend of five months. Thinking James forgets something, Samantha invites the person at the door in her home. To the audience’s surprise, it’s her brother, Cas. He wants her to return to Iran. Through their dialogues, the audience realizes that she owes him. He wants his pound of flesh! The siblings try to negotiate with each other as their long-term conflict ascends to the surface.
James returns to the apartment with flowers and alcohol for Samantha. He sees the extra person in the room. Samantha introduces her brother to James. Cas gets besides himself and he reveals information about his sibling’s life to James. There is tension in the room! Samantha tries to convince James to marry her. Cas hears the most important part of their conversation. Now, Cas reveals more of his sibling’s secret to James. James gets a Texan-size plate of food in the form of information to feast on. He needs help in his eating and his absorption of the specifics. In the end, Samantha opens up to James and she tells him all about her life in Iran and what forced her to end up in America.
Theatre goes must not miss the opportunity to see this wonderful play. They are going to appreciate living in the good old USA.
“Indigo” by Cassandra Powell, directed by Herman Spearman; starring Tunisia S. North, Jarryn M. Bingham, Asante Williams, Tanya Freeman, Justin Smith, Danee’ta “D Antoinette” Shine, Steve Bauder, and Cassandra Powell.
Throughout the play, the writer takes the audience back into the turbulent times of the Black Panther Party in Chicago in the 1970s. After one of its members is charged with murder, the audience sees how the group tries to get to the bottom of things through their own investigation.
The audience witnesses the infighting of the members and how Indigo tries to hold things together in the office. Indigo’s white boyfriend visits her in the office when the others are not around to see them together. She and her boyfriend have their own issues although they care about each other. Their individual and social issues put a strain on their relationship.
Critical information disappears from the office. Indigo’s loyalty to the movement becomes questionable until the offender confesses to the group. The audience enjoys a moment of euphoria. Indigo’s friend visits her one more time in the office, and she agrees to leave Chicago with him. Her decision was a short-lived promise on Indio’s part because she chooses the movement instead of love. There is no turning back!
After I saw this play, I decided to read and learn more about the Black Panther Party in Chicago. It ignited my curiosity to research this era.
“Here Comes Alice!” by Mark Schofield, directed by Chelsea Thaler; starring Elaine Lo, John Whitney, Shannon Mac Ardhail, Jack Corcoran, Joseph Anthony, Erika Grob, and Chris Longfellow.
The audience sees Ted in his apartment all alone. There is a knocking at his door and Alice enters the room like a category five typhoon. She argues with him as a woman on the edge and leaves the apartment. Alice enters again and she continues with her barrage of insults and accusations before she leaves one more time. Ted tries to defend himself without too much luck.
She returns for the third time and unleashes her tirade that informs the audience of their bad behavior and infidelity.
Alice involves the police in her failed torrid affair with Ted. The officer takes notes of her accusations of Ted’s transgression. Ted becomes a stalker in the officer’s mind, and he ruffles Ted’s feathers to justify Alice’s claim when he sees him. The audience takes in all of the new development in Ted’s life. Ted seeks professional help! He can believe what’s happening to him. Ted goes to court. The members of the court make a mockery of Ted’s case. His failed love affair lives on to haunt him for a very long time.
The writer gets his message across to the audience because an individual can’t get away from paying for his or her wrongs. Whenever a love affair goes up in smoke, the repercussion becomes very deadly. Transgressors face the music one measure at a time. It is a play for Theatre goers to see and learn from the message. It is a scared-straight experience that is very timely.
“Ronn Blitzer: Observe” by Ronn Blitzer.Jessica opens up the performance for Ronn. She moves the audience with her stories of being a teacher in the South Bronx. Jessica shares the high and low points of her experience on her first day on the job. She needs to write a book and gives it a suggested title of “Survival 101” in urban schools as a young teacher on your fist day of employment.
Jessica informs the audience about her first-hand experiences on the dating landscape, and she sends the audience in a reflective mood through all of the twists and turns that are associated with dating. She uses dating as her meal plan. Yet, she entertains the audience with her story of one of her dates with a phobia of heights problem. As the story goes, both of them entered the glass elevator at the Marriot Hotel in Midtown. Jessica enlightens the audience that her date cried like a baby while the elevator was ascending, and both of them had to walk down 42 flights of stairs to the ground level.
After Jessica’s performance, Ronn gives the audience its money worth with his valuable humor of life in the Orthodox Jewish world and in the secular world of New York City. The audience follows him as he navigates the city through riding the subway. Ronn shares his experiences with the audience as a buddy out with his friends to socialize, and he gives them a blow-by-blow detail of his daily activities in the city. He brings the audience into his sight-seeing tour in order to practice his routine. He sees break dancing in the train or somewhere else in New York City, guys playing the steel pan with melodious music from the Caribbean on the platforms, and other entertainers in the subway. A note for the audience, the steel pan is the only musical instrument that was created in the twentieth century in Trinidad, West Indies. Ronn engages the audience about his observations while listening to the announcements made by the conductors in the subway trains especially on weekends. New Yorkers better know how to navigate the subway system on their own because a conductor may provide them with the wrong direction. He continues with his humor about social media to the audience. He loves Facebook, and he describes the ups and downs about on-line dating, his being single, and the subject of marriage in the Jewish community. He also tackles holiday celebrations in both the Jewish and the secular society, for after summer ends; the Jewish holidays begin such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.
After, Ronn takes the audience to another level of consciousness as he reminisces about his solo vacation and the people he encounters during that trip. He raises the stakes with his politically correct inferences about certain racial and social issues. It is a performance worthy of seeing.
“Vickie: Keeping Alive the Breezy Summery Side
of Jacques Brel, Kurt Weill and Aznavour” by Vickie Phillips, directed musically by Gerry
Dieffenbach; starring Vickie and accompanist Gerry Dieffenbach.
Vickie sings with an accompanist, and he complements her presentation to the audience. Before she sings each song, she brings the audience into the world of the composer with amazing stories of their European’s connections. Vickie utilizes the stage and she transcends and intimate presence with her warmth and sincerity. At the end of Vickie’s performance, the audience applauses with a sense of euphoria to show its appreciation for her.
“Universal Dad” by PJ Landers, directed by
Anthony Grasso, produced by Yasmin Siddiqui; starring PJ Landers.
PJ takes the audience into his world as a lad and the influence of his grandfather in his life. He explains how he stood out as a child because of his red hair and freckles on his face. His first memorable experience fighting back from being bullied boosts his personality, for he threw punches as though he was Muhammad Ali. His stories resonate with the audience about his childhood.
Further into PJ’s performance, he entertains the audience with his meeting of celebrities while working as an actor. To his knowledge, his father was an actor, too. After the birth of his son and a bonding experience with him, he decided to search for his own father. He got the information from SAG as to the location of his father. He told his wife about his intention to take a cross-country trip from New York to California by plane.
The audience becomes excited as PJ charms it with the particulars of his trip in California to find his father. He found the address and he was able to meet him. PJ informs the audience about their meeting and how he called his mother from his father’s apartment. PJ’s telling of their bonding as father and son deserves to become the movie of the week.
After his return to New York City, he kept in touch with his father in California. His sharing of his life story takes the audience on an emotional high because a phone call from his father’s
doctor took the wind out of his sail. He flew back to California to see his father at the VA
hospital. His description of his father’s condition in the hospital changes the mood of the
audience to one of reflection. It enables it to think about mending relationships. It is a worthy performance. Theatre goers need to see it before the festival ends.
“The Byron Freeman Experience Live!” by Byron Freeman.
Byron entertains the audience with his melodic voice. A piano player and three back-up singers complement his performance. The audience takes in all of his renditions with very loud applauses at the end of the show. The audience experiences a great feat of an up-and-coming performer with a promising career on Broadway. After his performance, Byron announces birthday greetings to two members of the audience and he sings happy birthday to them.
“Good Catch Comedy” a musical improv; starring Rebecca Bayard, Von Decarlo, Scott Wesley Hawley, Lisa Sperry, Kirk Stevens, Mike Wirsch, and Laura Yoder Witt.
The group captures the mood in a school cafeteria on stage with songs, and the audience reflects on its own experience during its school days. The performance allows the audience to think about becoming a part of the debate as to the integration of more fruits and vegetables on the lunch menu for America’s children. They need to see colors and variety on their plates at lunch time.
In another segment of the performance, the audience sees a mean headmistress of a private school. Two of the students want to escape their poor diet, and she catches them in the act.
Having her own issues with food, she punishes the students for her own misgivings. The disagreement and dialogue among students, family members and staff about the food break the old family tradition. The implementation of fresh fruits every day brings back the luster into those affected by the poor diet.
The audience sees the transformation of the headmistress and her cohort. With the love and the generosity of a kiss, the frog recovers to a life of full happiness. It’s a performance to be remembered, and the audience gives loud applauses.
“Jacqueline Kroschell: Spirit, 5 Years to Life” by Jacqueline Kroschell, directed musically by Martin Yazdzik; starring Jacqueline Kroschell. Jacqueline’s introduction and the audience’s participation create the right ambience for her Cabaret show. The seasoned veteran enlightens the audience about her Swiss upbringing in Wisconsin, and how she fell in love with performing at a very young age. She talks about her travels to Hong Kong, Canada and other places. After, she informs the audience of the Swiss National Day, August 1.
It is one of the best performances I have seen as Jacqueline sings with her melodious voice to the matured audience. She reassures it with her charm and poise that permeates a sense of exhilaration that generates applauses. Jacqueline’s singing of the songs touches the hearts of a beaming audience throughout the duration of her show.
“Single Ville” by Mary McCallum, directed byMeleisha Edwards and Mary McCallum; starring Alison Klemp, Mary McCallum, and Nicole Stanley.
The audience sees three women as they role play all of the scenarios that women encounter in relationships for a very long time. The different characteristics of the men who are semi available ring the alarm bell to the audience. The ladies’ illustration of the reality and pitfall of dating sends a shock wave in the direction of the audience. It represents a déjà vu moment.
It is a performance for all to see and the audience gets a lesson in how to up its game as a player or how not to become a victim of a player. Single Ville brings home its message loud and clear.
It’s up to the audience to take a stand and demand respect from the men on the prowl down lovers’ lane.
“You Gotta Feel Me!” by Phil Brooks; starring Phil Brooks.
A gentleman by the name of Peter opens the show for Phil Brooks, and he charms the audience instantly with the things he hates what others have to say in their conversations. To make mention of a few of them” “Everything in moderation,” “Rules are made to be broken,’ and
“Everything happens for a reason.” Next, he informs the audience about the social ills he dislikes such as rapes, child abuse and concentration camps. With all this in retrospect, the audience behaves like children in a candy store for the first time listening to his brand of comedy. He talks about the experience he gained during his trip from Italy back to the USA with profound exhilaration before he leaves the stage.
Phil Brooks enters the stage and he acknowledges his Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia fans in the audience. Later in the show, he talks about life as he sees it, and he gives an account of his college days and being beaten down by another guy for his attitude. He gives an update of the guy’s current status as a married man and a father. Phil talks about current affairs in America. He decides to touch base on Bill Crosby and the latest development. He informs the audience that he’s not on his side, and he makes reference to a few date-rape drugs on the market today and in the 1970s.
The audience gets a blow-by-blow account of Phil’s visit to a club. He elaborates about his first-hand experience with a drink connoisseur. Afterward, he and his drink connoisseur encounter police officers on their way home on the suspicion of DWB, driving while black. He reminds the audience that white cops are bad, but black cops are worse. One of the officers puts the breathe analyzer close to his penis in order for Phil to blow through it. Phil tells the audience that he hesitates to blow through the breathe analyzer, in order for the officer to get an accurate reading of his blood alcohol level. The audience relishes on every moment of Phil’s experience from the time being stopped to his time in the police station.
Phil moves the audience with other details about his life in Bedford/Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; and being an older brother to his siblings. His warmth and truthfulness in his comedy allow the audience to get a glimpse of a man with a lot of stories to tell.
“Meshelle In Funny, Fierce, Fabulous” by Meshelle and performed by Meshelle.
Meshelle, The Indie-Mom of Comedy, entertains and informs the audience with stories of her childhood that shapes her into the person she is as a comedian and more. The church has been a driving force for her. It was a Black History lesson in August, and the audience seizes the moment with jubilation. Meshelle sings the song Just As I Am and her rendition takes the audience into a reflective mode.
As the performance progresses, Meshelle shares more of her stories with warmth and sincerity, and the audience follows the making and the journey of this fabulous woman. She shares the songs that inspired her and she mentions the names of those female artists who paved the way for her and others.
The Indie-Mom of Comedy informs the audience of her dedication to mentoring young women. Giving back is very important to her and she reminds the audience of her commitment. She acknowledges a few people in the audience before the end of her performance. Susan Taylor and John Chatterton were in the audience.