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This Week in Theater
Review by Rose Desena
It’s February 1964, the civil rights movement is gaining ground after years of brutal murders and hate killings. The poll tax was abolished and later that year we finally get the Civil Rights Act signed. However tension is mounting with another movement deep inside the Afro American communities.
Cassius Clay (Matt Jones) sweeps the Title fight against the champ Sonny Liston, who better to celebrate with then his dearest friends, Sam Cooke (Ty Jones), Jim Brown (Kevin Daniels) and Malcolm X (Jason Delane). The room is high end but the mini bar is empty except for Vanilla Ice Cream. What should have been a night of hard drinking and fraternizing with female fans became a virtual therapy session of soul searching and anger fueled by the fact that Malcolm X had a hidden agenda and a looming secret.
Kemp Powers (writer) is a big fan of these four dynamic men, although the story is fictional all four men really did get together that night and Powers waited years to bring this event alive with his pen. Thanks to Roxanne Hart and John Perrin Flynn of the Rogue Machine we can imagine this moment in time. Powers adds just enough amusing lines and comic relief to keep you from dwelling on some of the truths that are too disturbing. The acting is stellar, each of the four characters is very convincing, Clay as a young cocky stud who beat the odds, Cook as a soul singer who made it as a producer and Brown who to this day is recognized as a NFL star. The only man struggling was Malcolm, being watched and under scrutiny from the Nation, his mission was to make sure Clay was convinced the movement was his future.
The Bob Dylan song “Blowing in the Wind” is a catalyst that incites each one of the four men to ponder their pasts and think about their futures. The rapid dialog breaks just enough for us to hear the gorgeous voice of Ty Jones hit the high notes of Sam Cooks legendary songs. As the night unfolds they share their fears and secrets while outside the door two brothers of the Muslim Nation are standing guard and not just to watch Malcolm as they were lead to assume.
The first thing you notice when walking into the theater is the stage set, it’s so pristine I thought the theater had a renovation. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, really captured the time and place. The Director Carl Cofield places two scary looking men warring dark suits and shades at the front of the stage. It was so surreal I was waiting for a pat down. I thought maybe Obama was going to be there, nope just part of the show.
Everything about this play is good, so put down the remote and grab some friends and go see it. Get there a bit early I love the buzz in the lobby before the show and they always have a cheerful person behind there donation only bar.
A World Premiere
Writen by Kemp Powers
Director: Carl Cofield
Cast: Jah Shams, Jason E Kelley, Ty Jones, Jason Delane, Matt Jones, Kevin Daniels
(Some of the parts are double cast, the night I was there this was the cast)
The Rogue Machine 5041 Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles Ca. 90019
Runs Friday and Saturday @ 8 pm and Sunday @ 3pm until July 28th