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Minneapolis by Ed Huyck  

Point of Revue

Point of Revue

About three-quarters of the way through Point of Revue - after a dizzying array of theatrical styles, topics, and characters - I stopped trying to find the heart of this show. This collection of 15 short plays by African-American playwrights about the African-American experience is most like a patchwork quilt. The individual parts may be of varying quality, but the show as a whole does a good job of illuminating the shared experiences of the show’s creators.

Point of Revue features work by 15 playwrights, much of it tied together by the music of veteran Twin Cities composer J.D. Steele. With these tools in hand, the nine-actor ensemble (along with music director Sanford Moore, who is perched above the stage) do their work with the varied pieces.

In his program notes, Artistic Director Jack Rauler says that Mixed Blood wanted plays that “would create a composite snapshot of African America ... with attitude.” The best moments of Point of Revue happen when the playwright, director Thomas W. Jones II, and the ensemble take that mission to heart. This gives rise to pieces like “Down Low,” where the culture’s attitudes toward its closeted and uncloseted gay is parodied via a gospel choir.

Other pieces work deep into the harsh realities of the world, with varied results. “A Quiet Emergency” (by Don Cheadle, known for his film work) shines a light on an African tragedy, but on its own it doesn’t emerge as more than a documentary on stage. Twinned, however, with “Blown Away” - in which Gavin Lawrence takes a hard look at life on the streets - the similarities become harrowing. Add in Caryle Brown’s “God of War,” in which the tensions of American life play out among a troop of soldiers in Iraq, and you have the dark center point of the entire piece.

Some of the surrounding plays aren’t as strong, in part because it seems as if the playwrights forgot the “play” part of the equation. Some play out as scenes from a larger work and never find a focus for the short time they are on stage. Some - especially opener “Wooden You” - fall on the other side of the equation, presenting all concept without making much of a connection on an emotional level.

And Point of Revue ends with a considerable one-two punch, as Elisa Davis and Kia Corthron take on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In Davis’ “Secretary of Shake,” she gets a pair of hip-hop dancers to back her up at every appearance, while “Come So Far” has the conservative Rice tussling with a crowd of young liberal college students. Wait, lets go back a bit: The Secretary of State has a pair of hip-hop dancers backing her up. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch a news conference with Dr. Rice the same way ever again.

Whatever the faults, Point of Revue works because it never pauses. The characters, situations, themes and concepts are thrown at the audience at a dizzying pace. The nine performers remain strong throughout, breathing considerable life into every scene, every moment of the show.

Point of Revue runs through April 9 at the Mixed Blood Theatre, Minneapolis. For more information, call 612-338-0937 or visit www.mixedblood.com.


Photo: Ann Marsden  


- Ed Huyck



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