“Jungle Kings” is an original play written and directed by Rain Wilson, and takes place in an inner-city prison. The set design by Mark Macaulay is effective with tall metal bars on either side of the stage evoking jail cells, and a rundown alley in the middle for scenes outside.
The subject matter questions whether prison is to rehabilitate or vegetate, and attempts to explain reasons for crime and captivity. The clichéd monologues do not shed much light, but the performances are mesmerizing, and all should be mentioned: Joseph Alvarez, Guy Williams, Darryll C. Scott, and Spencer M. Collins.
Most outstanding are Cockroach (Jay Jimerson), Baby Cockroach (Duane Avery), The Hypnotist (Gregory C. Netts), and the Professor (Robert DoQui). Each of these actors posses charisma, and none so powerful as the Professor, who desperately tries to build up Baby Cockroach, who is appearing before the parole board the next morning. He fervently pleads: drop the cockroach identity, you are Jason Watts. The Hypnotist, resembling the devil, laughs at that, and does his best to tear down and belittle, also becoming his vicious mother as she screams at him, “You’re no good.” Baby Cockroach shot a 14-year-old boy encouraged by the father figure Cockroach, who claims the more people you kill, the more people will be afraid of you. However, pulled down by the poverty of the ghetto, there is still hope at the end of this sad scenario. Sound effects by Michael Cole are appropriate police and ambulance sirens.
“Jungle Kings” is at The Raven Playhouse (5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood). Performances are February 26-27 at 8 p.m., and February 28 at 7 p.m. General admission is $15 with group discounts available. To order tickets, call (800) 838-3006, or call the reservation hotline at (818) 332-4196.