Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sweet Charity! Spook Night star is scary good

They say Los Angeles ain't a theatre town, but theatres in LA are the places where you get to see familiar actors flex their chops and up and comers make enough of an impression to get noticed and become the next star on a show like Lost or Heroes. Or Cavemen. The latest attention-getter is the provocative Spook Night, a show that explores rage, revenge and racism backstage at an LA comedy club (that's where you go to find future sitcom stars) on black comedy night-- and contemporary black comedy through the eyes of its tragic progenitor, vaudevillian Bert Williams (the first black superstar, widely forgotten because he performed in blackface, and perfected the shiftless stereotype).

Our pal Muriel saw Spook Night and sent us this review:
Spook Night a hilarious yet truly serious play, written and directed by TV writer T. Faye Griffen (whose credits include In Living Color, Steve Harvey's Big Times, Roseanne and more). The play will have you splitting your seams with laughter, while using up your kleenex as you wipe away the tears. Whatever emotional buttons get pushed, it's a must see! Never once does Ms. Griffen take the easy or predictable way out.

While the play deals on one level with the struggle and racism African-American comedians have faced over time, it never loses an hysterically funny beat, even when dealing with the play's main character, Benjamin, an overly serious, angry comic who's lost his sense of humor.

Beautifully played by an amazingly intense Antonio D. Charity (above right, Benjamin is the vertical split behind the comedy: the rage, sadness and depression. I couldn't take my eyes off of him, even while he quietly studied his "jokes" amidst the hilarious antics of the other comics. Audiences might recognize Mr. Charity from his performances on shows like The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Charmed, Law and Order, The Wire, and All My Children (recently he's shot the films Hydra, Marco Polo and Over My Dead Body). But all that he's done before, pales before this performance. He is star quality material and Hollywood should-- and will-- take notice!

Mr. Charity's anger is offset by the hilarious comedy of Mike Esteme, as Smokey Mo, known for his continuing role on Everybody Hates Chris. Other standouts include Bill Lee Brown as Old Dog and Andy Fields, as a new-to-L.A., offbeat, unaware white comic who doesn't realize it's "Spook Night" (the racist term for the one night a week that African American comics were allowed to perform at comedy clubs).

The set by Joel Daavid was excellent. A credit, not usually mentioned in a review is that of the casting director, but casting director Tige Charity of C&C Casting deserves special notice for bringing such wonderful talent to Ms. Griffen.
Thanks, Muriel! Spook Night runs Thursdays through Sundays until September 30th at the Lillian Theatre, l076 N. Lillian Way, on Hollywood's Theatre Row. (Hollywood has a Theatre Row?) Click here for ticket information.

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