Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Sassy Mamas
Karamu House
Review by Mark Horning

Also see Mark's reviews of Riverdance 20 and Hair and David's review of Boy

Jeanne Madison, Kimberly Sias,
and Rebecca Morris

Photo by Colleen Albrecht
They would rather you not refer to them as "cougars." They prefer the term "black panthers." They are highly successful black career women who, for whatever reason, are without male companionship. They feel that this is the new age of liberation where fifty is flirty, sixty is sexy, seventy is sensuous, eighty is erotic, and ninety is naughty. They are the Sassy Mamas. This sharply written, directed and acted play by award winning playwright Celeste Bedford Walker is being performed in the Arena Theatre at Karamu House through March 4, 2018.

Set in Washington DC during the Obama administration, the three fifty-somethings find themselves at a crossroads in life. Mary (Rebecca Morris) is freshly divorced from her ambassador husband who has thrown her over for a much younger woman. Wilhemina (Jeanne Madison) is a career political currently serving as the security advisor to the President. Prior to that she served as a university president and an ambassador and has never had time to get married. Jo Billie (Kimberly Sias) works as a hospital administrator who refuses to complete the grieving process over her late husband. The three friends (who live on the same floor of the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC) discover that, along with an itch they cannot scratch, there is definitely a fire down below.

Mary (who is in a serious relationship with a man her age) takes up with her Latino gardener Colby (Bryon Tobin). Wili begins seeing a young former football star turned journalist, Wes (Michael Head), and the business practical Jo Billie hires the stripling young janitor LaDonte (Cameron Woods), under contract for no talking "zip-it!" and all pleasure "unzip-it!"

Complications arise when, in spite of their feigned detachment, two of the ladies find themselves falling in love with their younger paramours, while Jo finds that that Tee-Tee is doing double duty with his past baby mamma.

This delightful cast is having the time of their lives on stage. Rebecca Morris (Mary) plays the naïve, innocent and insecure lady of culture who suddenly finds herself being delightfully pursued by two eligible men. Jeanne Madison (Wilhemina) is perfect as the no-nonsense politico who just wants a fling but instead finds her perfect match in intellect and interest. Kimberly Sias (Jo Billie) does an adventurous turn with her sex-for-hire boy toy as she tries to out run her grief.

As for the men, they are a double threat of eye candy and talent. Bryon Tobin (Colby) plays the young gardener tired of the shallowness of women his age who just wants the chance to pour his love (and special botanic lotions) on someone who loves him back. Michael Head (Wes) plays the cultured and very smooth boyfriend du jour for Wili who uses his smarts to win her heart. The entire show is fast moving and laugh-out-loud-funny as sexual content is laid out in all its finery and glory. The cast is superbly directed by Tony F. Sias.

Special mention must be made of the elegant stage sets (two lavish apartments and a terrace garden) as well as the costuming, both by Inda Blatch-Geib. The furnishings are well coordinated and extremely fashionable. The same is true of the sumptuous dress. You can bet that many of the women in the audience were taking careful notes concerning these elegant outfits. Colleen Albrecht also does an excellent job with the lighting design, giving the apartments a bright and airy feel.

This is an adult themed show so letÂ’s make this a "date night" away from the kids.

Sassy Mamas manages to turn the older-pursuing-younger concept right on its head in hilarious fashion (and quite fashionably). The acting is tight and on cue and the comedy is on point. It sparkles!

Sassy Mamas, through March 4, 2018, at Karamu House, 2355 E 89th St, Cleveland OH. All performances are currently sold out. You can contact the Karamu ticket office at 216-795-7077 and inquire about being placed on a waiting list. For more information, visit Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

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