We've Got Issues

Community theater worth watching

If this form of community theater inspires where the church-hall Charley's Aunt variety doesn't, it's largely because of the innate professionalism of the work being produced. By professionalism, I mean an understanding of the art form that comes with years of experience. Gardley and his collaborators, all seasoned pros, know the power of storytelling; Lorin's first speech is devoted to the theme of yarn-spinning. And yet as the play unfurls, potentially intriguing narrative threads, such as the one about Adeline's tense relationship with her biracial teenage daughter Parker, become increasingly stifled by dogma. These lines of Adeline's say it all: "Big booty is not who you are Parker! You are a beautiful bi-racial sistah. And you are Black and you are White. And I know you're going through a phase right now where you want to explore your Blackness more. Maybe learn more about your father and I think that's beautiful. But being Black is not defined by what you watch on TV, what you wear, or even what you say."

Welcome to the Neighborhood: David Stewart as Russell Wheeler and Emily Rosenthal as his Jewish wife, Adeline.
Benjamin Privitt
Welcome to the Neighborhood: David Stewart as Russell Wheeler and Emily Rosenthal as his Jewish wife, Adeline.

Such amateurish didacticism turns Lorin into an overlong issues play. In creating an intimate relationship between a particular group of people and their narratives, this kind of community theater can be too earnest, too caught up in reflecting the values and interests of its core audience at the expense of art. Local residents (both those onstage and those in the audience) might see their lives healed through the process, but at what creative cost?

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