Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Wizard of Hip (or When in Doubt Slam Dunk)
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

From left, Kanysha Williams,
Thomas W. Jones II, and
Jasmine Eileen Coles

Photo by Chris Banks
Audiences at MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia, know Thomas W. Jones II as playwright, lyricist, director and choreographer, but the theater's current production of The Wizard of Hip (or When in Doubt Slam Dunk) introduces him as a performer—as well as playwright, director and choreographer. While Jones is prodigiously talented, this performance seems overly packed with everything he wants to include about growing up African-American and male.

Jones is returning to The Wizard of Hip 25 years after he originally appeared in it at Washington's Studio Theatre. As he's gained some years and some wisdom (as he jokes, now it's "The Wizard of Hip Replacement"), Jones no longer holds the stage alone as he did before; he's joined by two Lady Doo Wops (Jasmine Eileen Coles and Kanysha Williams) and live music by William Knowles (original music, music director, keyboard) and Greg Holloway (drums).

The question Jones raises is, what does being hip really mean? "Hipness is what it is," the Lady Doo Wops repeat as Afro Jo (Jones) narrates and hoofs his way through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. He recounts his days in Catholic school, his experience with Pentecostal worship, and his discovery of the "true church"—watching professional basketball. From there it's on to the frustration of being 13 years old at a school dance, trying to balance macho posturing against sensitivity as he desperately pursues women, and ultimately realizing he has become who he was meant to be.

Jones is a winning performer and the two women are delightful, but enough is enough. The production is tiring despite a minimalist staging: the set design by Carl Gudenius and Shuxing Fan consists of platforms and a rear wall that displays Robbie Hayes' projection designs, while Michael Sharp's costumes tend toward gray and black athletic wear.

The Wizard of Hip (or When in Doubt Slam Dunk)
August 17th - September 17th, 2017
By Thomas W. Jones II
Original music by William Knowles
Afro Jo: Thomas W. Jones II
Lady Doo Wop 1: Jasmine Eileen Coles
Lady Doo Wop 2: Kanysha Williams
Directed and choreographed by Thomas W. Jones II
Music director: William Knowles
1201 N. Royal St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Ticket Information: 703-548-9044 or

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