Some brilliant Ah-Ha! Moments
HOLLYWOOD, CA - What if you were to take a group of strong African American female artists and have them create four new works that expose the moments of life when everything changes? You would have the great ideas and performances that are
Ah-Ha! Moments now playing at The Complex in Hollywood on theater row.
The mission statement of the work describes a "production featuring four original one-act plays by female playwrights of various ethnicities and backgrounds. All of the pieces explore the central theme of how women find and release their true voices. " The plays are actually a comment on even more universal themes then that from fear of rejection to overcoming the demons of our past.
In the first offering of the evening, entitled Butterscotch and Fudge by Magaly Colimon and Directed by Christopher Scott, Cherot Juliette Jeffers personifies a modern African American woman (Isa) who is successful in her own right but lonely and at the point of no return, literally, as the curtain rises. It is the story of meeting someone on-line and really letting your inner poetry, your inner song be your voice and than having to take that risk of actually meeting the person you feel you know so well. With her character literally and figuratively afraid to fly, Jeffers own poetic sensibilities and talent create such a strong connection with the audience, that we all feel a part of Isa's vulnerability.
Cheryl Francis Harrington is perfect as the woman on the plane who at first seems to be a throw down Sista-friend but reveals much more of a wise sage and a spirit who knows love and confidence and can instill it in others. She had the audience in the palm of her hand, easily. Montae Russell (Branden) as the online Romeo appears to be to good to be true at first - you wonder when the player will be revealed, when the other shoe will fall, and then you have a moment that the nights title intends you to have; that all men are not stereotypes and - these two have something more that keyboard skills in common - The chemistry between Jeffers and Russel was on fire - seductive and enticing. - The play was well directed and Tarina Pouncy did the most she could with the small role of the stewardess.
In The Fun- Written by S. Vasanti Saxena and Directed by Armando Molina - we are in for a more cerebral Ah-Ha moment, at times true and poignant and other times frustrating. Magaly Colimon as May the writer, is deep and rooted in her work as she struggles with voices past and present - her inner voice finding it's own strength in the process. Maricela Ochoa gives a gifted and subtle performance showing we all have at least two sides to us and they can be crazy making in their own right. Where the play becomes muddled is with Donna Duplantier's character - although not the fault of the actor entirely, from wardrobe to words, Molina allows the performance to be a little too over the top - but the work itself still thrives.
Next up was Couple Wanted- Written by Veona Thomas and Directed by Magaly Colimon.
Tammi Cubilette as Rose Jenkins was so good you were afraid to run into her in the lobby afterward. She was a psych ward latina with a heart of gold and a dream - straight up funny. Playing opposite of her was Elisa Perry - her character Sarah Harris never seemed to find the underlying desperation that a woman out of jail who needs work should have, but she played well throughout and had great rapport with Cubilette. Wiyatta Fahnbulleh as Sophie Bolton – their boss did a fine job and you wanted to see more of her. Some of the sight gags in the piece weren't as funny as they could have been.
The last play of the night was rich and real and beautifully acted. Legacy of Love bring us into the hearts and minds of three generations of women of West Indian descent, as they realize that what is handed down from mother to daughter can haunt an entire family. Beautifully written by M.B. Montague and Juliette Jeffers and tightly directed by Andi Chapman the play follow the three women at grandmothers birthday night exploring men and love and how they view the world, finding painful similarities throughout. Patricia Belcher as grandmother Pearline is at complete ease and makes the audience slow down and come to her, thick accent and all. Elayn J. Taylor as Audrey the mother is a woman who finds herself at odd with her own choices, what she thought was right and important now suspect. She carries herself with the air of a woman who has many times put love aside for life's other priorities. Adenrele Ojo as the daughter Morgan is at once trapped by the family legacy and fighting it in the same moment. What works so well is the ensemble and the work the three actors did to prepare - it is clearly evident they explored not just blocking and script, but the idiosyncrasies of character development that it takes to flesh out a play. The women make us forget we are watching a play and instead we are watching their world unfold. It is special when that happens in theater. A special mention to the set designer on this play, who makes the strong point that set and props can become an additional character if handled correctly, providing silent commentary on the piece itself.
It is difficult to find a night of theater that provokes thought and provides reflections of modern life that are authentic and humorous. Ah-Ha moments pulls it off without a hitch and in doing so showcases some of the best talent, male or female, that theater goers should want to see more of. Take a night between now and March 20th and go - you won't be disappointed.
- Kevin Kindlin