I have been intrigued of late when I have heard J.K. Rowling talk about her characters in the Harry Potter series. I found it fascinating that when a character meets their fate, Rowling stated that she is emotionally involved, even bringing her to tears upon a characters death. What an amazing relationship to exist inside the head of a playwright. So it was with great delight, that I discovered the current production at Cleveland Public Theatre actually explored that theme.
So, what are we talking about here. A gritty, in-your-face comedy that digs into what we naturally turn away from, racism. “This Is Not the Play” imagines a black playwright trying to write a play about white people. The problem is that the characters seem to have minds of their own. The playwright sends in her agent to interrogate the characters and then she tries to intervene as they expose their pathetically racist and patently disempowered viewpoints. Is this the playwright’s reflection on racism, or on her own prejudice?
“This is Not the Play” by Chisa Hutchinson, in a regional premiere, is a unique one act experience that delves into the mind of a playwright, by actually interacting with the characters right in front of us. The Black playwright (a stunning Katrice Headd) is the voice you hear coming from all four corners of the performance in the round. She first encounters the first female character portrayed by a stunning Rebecca Frick. Her character starts off as a blond version of Sunny Delight, and would certainly be the cover girl for the magazine “Good Girls Don’t”. Then, we meet some rough trade played to the hilt by Jessica Annunziata. I would not cut in front of her in line. The two ladies have wills of their own and have issues with the playwright’s direction of their characters, and the drama and bits of comedy begin.
To solve and negotiate the proceedings, what better choice then send your snarky literary agent played devilishly by Bobby Coyne. Coyne is a bipolar mess of hot and cold, and the middle makes you want to take a shower. After dramatically trying to make the playwrights vision of a “nice play about closet lesbians” come to life, it is time for mama playwright to enter the picture. Headd appears and personally addresses the situation with her creative kids gone wild. Headd is a beautiful presence on stage, with one of the fiercest faces that commands attention. Part of her intervention involves bringing in the big guns, or simply, Mother. Played with supreme crispness by Laura Starnik, she arrives with her set of guilt luggage and the tale of family bigotry.
Director Emily Ritger does a nice job of keeping the players moving around the festive brain set that visually pops due to the fine work by Inda Blatch-Geib and Dred Geib. There were moments when the brooding dialogue seemed to lack variation in tone, but overall, I found the performances to be strong and interesting. The lighting and sound design rocked. Gregory S. Falcione and Mike Tutaj deserve a massive bar tab for their work. The effects almost upstaged the play itself. And a note about the stage manager calling the show, I thought it was called with tremendous timing. The execution of the cues was impressive.
FREE BEER FRIDAY-mingle with the artists after the show while enjoying a FREE drink on CPT!
$12-$18 General Admission
(216) 631-2727 extension 501
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Cleveland Public Theatre
6415 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland Ohio 44102