You know how when you see really bad theater it makes you feel dirty and angry, like your soul needs a shower and you want to punch an actor in the mouth? Well this show that I saw last night In the Red and Brown Water at the Fountain Theatre will cleanse a lifetime of bad theater from your system. I’m serious. It is that good. Maybe even better than that. This show will literally heal you.
Go see it. Now. If you love theater go see it. If you hate theater go see it. If you loved theater then saw something awful and now hate theater, go see it. If you’ve never seen theater go see it. If you have friends, family or enemies who fall into any of the aforementioned categories, make them go see it. Hell, bring your dog, even he’ll enjoy it.
The opening of this show was so thrilling I almost leapt to my feet and started cheering right there. I thought there was no way they could sustain something this powerful, this exciting, but they did, from the extraordinarily original and multi-layed voice of playwright Tarrell Alvin McCraney, to the stunning movement and staging of Shirley Jo Finney, to the music and song and design teams, to the almost impossibly perfect execution and commitment of the cast, to a lead performance by Diarra Kilpatrick that is so good you wonder if somehow the designers may have concocted some kind of CGI image in front of your eyes instead of a living breathing human being, her movement, range of emotion and depth of passion is so indescribable that it will literally take your breath away, this is simply what theater is meant to be.
If I have one niggling criticism it is in the Brechtian asides that playwright McCraney uses in his play, where the actors actually break the fourth wall and offer stage directions such as, “Shango enters”. It’s awkward, a bit unnecessary in my opinion, McCraney’s intent as he describes it in the program notes is to keep the audience connected and remind them that they are experiencing a theatrical event – something that should go without saying in my opinion – but even here the device has evolution and craft in it, eventually the asides become personal thoughts and feelings and transform into soliloquys that reveal inner psychology and conflict and the cast is so good and the direction so fluid that it all works.
Once again the Fountain Theater shows that they are the class of Los Angeles Theater, big or small.
I will make a prediction and a challenge right here and now; if this show does not win best production, best play, best ensemble, best lead actress and best direction from every Los Angeles Award, be it the Ovations, LA Weekly, Backstage, LADCC, then I will henceforth consider those awarding bodies invalid. And yup, I realize this is right at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season, but I just don’t see a show coming anywhere near this masterpiece over the next year. And I saw Death of a Salesgirl last week which was quite spectacular unto itself.
Do not miss this, LemonHeads. It will remind you why you love theater. It did for me.
About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.