Oakland, CA has not necessarily been a hot bed for good theatrical productions the past several years, and one of the city's latest offerings is the play For Colored Guys which is being performed at Downtown Oakland's The Malonga Casquelourd Center for The Arts. It is produced by DL Simon & Heroic Entertainment and certainly does not help in promoting better theatre for the city.
The technical elements appeared not to have been rehearsed adequately, and there were actors who certainly did not match the energy of their peers on stage. The play was written & directed by Danesha L. Simon and opened with a voiced over solemn prayer by the character DeShawn (portrayed by Terrence Richmond) for his daughter Shay (Ashley Wilhite).
It was followed by four of the play's characters - Lisa (La Vada Womack); Vivian Jenkins (Donneshia DC Clark); Tangy (Kyeshia Arrington); and Camille (Keneshia Mayfield) - singing gospel classics such as, "I Need Thee Every Hour" and "Jesus Loves Me". The vocal selections during the production were certainly its overwhelming strength. At the end of the scene, the play humors the audience that Camille cannot sing though Mayfield certainly has a beautiful voice as she exits stage left.
And the comedic banter between Elroy Stevens (Even Stevens) & Miss Jean (Inez Banks), as well as on occasions Ray Ray (Greg G-Nut Brown) with Vivian Jenkins (Donneshia Clark) and Tangy (Kyeshia Arrington) were certainly witty moments.
However, Brown's antics as well as his finger gestures and asides to the audience breaking the fourth wall took away from his performance. Brown seemed more fit to be a stand-up comedian than an actor for the production and occasionally, it felt like a comedy sketch rather than a play in the scenes he was in.
The script lacked focus as it seemed the script was so divided and never found the core story of the play. Was the play supposed to be about DeShawn, his ex-girlfriend Lisa, and their daughter Shay or was it about the love triangle of Camille, her husband Anthony (Andrew Allen), and her lover Jody Jackson (Orlando Graves II), who happened to be Anthony's best friend? The script just never found the central theme.
The playwright seemed to focus more on the love triangle before bringing it back to DeShawn's family. Yet, it feels like the play should have focused more on DeShawn and Lisa. Mayfield, Graves, Allen, Richmond, and Womack were more than adequate for their roles. However, the script's lack of focus seemed to take away from the production as a whole.
As for directing notes, several entrances and exits seemed to have been missed by Allen and Graves near the end of the play. At times, actors seemed uncomfortable with the blocking. It appeared that scenes were inadequately rehearsed.
There was a live band led by Lamar Green (keyboards) with Roderick Brewster (bass) and Ignacio Miller (bass). Music was played quite nicely by the band, including the moments supporting the gospel sounds and the theme from The Pink Panther. However, there was a point in the performance when the music played on top of the dialogue which could not be heard at that point.
Costumes were appropriate for each character of the play, especially Elroy's blue suit; make-up was just right for the entire cast; and hair design was quite acceptable. Of note, the production needed more rehearsals with fight choreography in scenes that involved Camille, Anthony, and Jody.
Lighting and sound cues seemed to come too early or too late thus ruining lighting transitions. There were a few moments when scenes were still performing and the stage lights went out. It just didn't seem there was adequate time for technical rehearsals. Overall, it was a good performance by the entire production. But the play as a whole needed more rehearsal time which it now has as the next set of performances will be several weeks from opening weekend.
For Colored Guys performs again Sat. Apr. 7, 2012 @ 2 pm & 6 pm @ the Malonga Casquelord Arts Center located @ 1428 Alice Street, Oakland, CA 94612. For tickets and information, click on this link: http://www.forcoloredguys.net/Home.html or for tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/224958