Saturday, November 05, 2005

Theatre: Cuttin' Up

Last night went to Arena stage for the first night preview of world premiere. Cuttin' Up is written and directed by Charles Randolph-Wright adapted from the book of the same name by Craig Marberry, who visited African-American barbershops around the US collecting the stories told there. The barbershop and the church are the two places African-American men can gather and talk and a rich history has built up around the former. The play presents that history as stories told by the three barbers and their customers, all of whom are played five actors in a wide variety of wigs. Dramatic tension is supplied by the conflict between the owner and the man he wants to be his successor, but who has a history of leaving cities and marriages. I found the story suprisingly effective since it is little more than a rack on which to hang a wonderful collection of vignettes and songs. Among the former my favourite was a competition between a Baptist and an AME preacher. The Baptist played by Bill Grimmette finished with a peroration on the importance of the barbershop delivered in full sermon style.

The show was almost stolen by Marva Hicks playing all the female characters from hot youngster, through mother from the projects, R&B singer, outrageously-dressed Texan female barber, to the 75-year-old mother of one of the barbers. She and many other cast members pulled off some very fast changes, both of clothes and hair styles. The other star of the show is the costume department with their wonderful collection of wigs all the way up to a 2-ft wide Afro.

With an almost full house for first-night preview and a standing ovation at the end this one will be a hit for Arena.

2 comments:

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