Friday, April 16, 2010

M Ensemble: The Trial... (2 reviews)

The M Ensemble opened The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman -versus- Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae on April 8, 2010.
In Karani M. Leslie's comedy, a businesswoman is so convinced that Hollywood stereotypes are dragging down her career that she takes two of those stereotypical women to court.
Lowell Williams directed a cast that included Carey Hart, Tihirah Taliaferro, Alexis Snyder, Carolyn Johnson, and Ya Ya Browne.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
Well-meaning actors who haven't acted before, directed by someone who hasn't done much directing endeavoring to produce a play by a writer who's never written so ambitiously before: That's what The Trial seems like -- amateur blocking mistakes compounding amateur diction that comes from a script that just can't figure out what to do with itself.
The one, brilliant, and even transcendent exception to the general mediocrity is Keith C. Wade... turning in a scathing but in no way stereotypical portrayal of a yuppie California Caucasian, I was soon swept up in the fun of it. The offensiveness of the gag was ameliorated by Wade's dynamic, razor-sharp characterizations. If people of any color are going to make art about race in America, they should be as honest, as rude, and as alive to humor and surprise as Wade is in this show. He alone makes The Trial  worth the price of admission, and then some.
Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
Karani Marcia Leslie's The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman vs. Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae just sounds unwieldy and windy. Yet though some parts of the script are exactly that way, Leslie's satirical take on black identity contains enough observant hilarity and shattering truth that the cumulative effect of the play is both amusingly crazy and undeniably stinging.
Director Lowell Williams theorizes that the play is the main character's issue-resolving dream. Works for me.
As with many of M Ensemble's productions, The Trial is full of pluses and minuses. Douglas Grinn's courtroom set is utterly simple, to the point of looking rudimentary... Shirley Richardson's costumes are a mixed bag -- the ``contemporary'' ones dated, the ones for Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae exactly right.
...Hart appealingly gives her all to the earnest, spoiled, misguided Victoria -- not easy, because Ms. Dyer is really the ``villain'' who needs schooling. Snyder and Rhoulhac at first act in accordance with the stereotypes they represent, but when they reveal the women's life stories, watch out. Yaya Browne is a strong presence as the defense attorney, Tihirah Taliaferro far too soft-spoken and understated as Victoria's lawyer. Carolyn Johnson is funny enough, but she comes across like a reality TV judge gone off her meds.
The smartest, wildest work comes from Keith C. Wade, the show's lone male cast member.He's the stoic bailiff, a "white'' writer-producer and a leering slave master (for those roles, he dons a white half mask), and a black movie exec who insists his first name -- Leroi -- be pronounced "Lee-wah.''
...the play's final moments achieve an effect so powerful that history and enlightenment become one and the same.
The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman -versus- Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae plays at The M
through May 2, 2010.

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