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Minneapolis by Elizabeth Weir

Hot Comb is Stylin'
By Michelle Pett

Hot Comb
Kimberly J. Morgan
Great hair has been my primary fantasy since I had my first haircut (six years old, self-inflicted, horrifying). While some people daydream about sex during business meetings, I think about hair; ditto driving, eating, and writing theatre reviews. In short (or in long, permed, or highlighted), I've got a serious hair fixation. I'm guessing that writer/performer Kimberly Morgan does, too. Her one-woman show, Hot Comb: Brandin' One Mark of Oppression, now at Pillsbury House Theatre, takes a fresh and entertaining look at the way African American women use their hairstyles to assert themselves in the world.

Hot Comb is a series of vignettes exploring the fashion, social and political statements made by Black women via their hair - and the way society (and the African American community) respond to them because of their style choices. In Hot Comb, hair is destiny: there's the pretty girl whose naturally straight hair strangers like to touch (a subtle violation that will echo later on when her character returns as a drug-addled prostitute); the actress whose phone stops ringing when she cuts the perm out of her hair; the attorney defending her straightened hair because she needs to be on the "inside" to clear the path for future Black professional women; a true-believing hairdresser during the Harlem Renaissance; a 14-year-old who dreadlocks her hair when her mother won't let her straighten it; a fashion plate with a weave and an attitude; and an elderly woman who takes the long view about Black hairstyles.

Kimberly Morgan is riveting as she moves seamlessly from character to character. Sharp, funny and "dead on," Morgan gives a tour de force performance. Director Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates keeps the pacing taut throughout and makes inventive use of Chris Morris' junkyard set, stashing props and costumes amongst the detritus to facilitate Morgan's character shifts. Costume Designer Katherine Pepmiller uses basic costume changes - a tailored jacket for the lawyer, a knit cap for the hip hop poet who disses her - to terrific effect. Finally, Malo Adams' sound collage of voices, music, and environmental sounds creates an understated tonal embrace for Morgan's work.

Hot Comb is a tremendous opportunity to experience Morgan's smart, versatile work early in her Twin Cities career. Even if you're not "into" hair - heck, even if you're bald - Hot Comb is worth the price of admission.

Hot Comb: Brandin' One Mark of Oppression May 20 - June 4, 2005. Wednesday - Saturday at 7:30 PM. Tickets $18, Thursday - Saturday; "Pay what you can", Wednesday. Pillsbury House Theatre, 3501 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis. Call 612-825-0459.


Photo: 2005 Usry Alleyne


- Michelle Pett



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