Nestled upstairs above the bustling crowd of tourists on the boulevard, meeting their favorite “super heroes” for photo ops … I was entertained by Michael Jackson, Superman, and Mickey Mouse on the way in. Only in L.A., huh?
Billed as “a comedy of Biblical Proportions,” and presented by Towne Street Theatre Company in their 20th year, I caught their world premiere comedy on Sunday. L.A.’s highly respected African American troupe always offers innovative, hilarious, or thought provoking original productions. This one, written soulfully by Harriet A. Dickey, and ambitiously co-directed by Nancy Cheryll Davis and Nancy Renee … was no exception in “creativity” … but somehow just didn’t feel quite ready to open to audiences yet. Still, an entertaining, riotously religious comedy, with a cleverly executed story line … I’m confident it will all gel by the time you read this. Taking place at the “Blessed Hope Missionary Baptist Church,” a slick and “questionable” new Preacher has been hired. A bit of a sleezeball underneath his classy veneer … doubts about his credibility and intentions explode among his parishioners, as they learn more about him. David Hunter Jr. plays the shady new Reverand, Paul Rawlins, with a cocky and high energy spirit … as the character we loved to dislike. An “unholy war” unfolds, as questions about his motives and sincerity explode and he retaliates with a fervor. Offering one of the plays most gut-wrenching scenes, between the Reverend and Ottilie … Diane Sellers is heart-wrenching as the loving older woman he takes advantage of, in an attempt to secure his position. An especially moving scene plays out in Act II, as the entire cast in church gloriously sings “Oh Happy Day” and the Reverend preaches with holy pizzazz! As always with this troupe, the depictions all round are passionate and believable. In classy “church folk” costumes, designed by Kim Harrington, on an effective cathedral set by Nathaniel Bellamy … the entire ensemble gave spirited and heartfelt performances. The remainder of the cast includes: Joahn Webb, Brian E. Chandler, Teressa Taylor, Kenya Williams, Mark V. Jones, Ray Dennis, Aries Sanders, Jackie Marriott, Joseph Andrew, and Londale Theus. All worthy! From deeply touching, to frantically funny, to “fire and brimstone” … this production has a lot of heart, and worthy messages to ponder. Do try to catch it! Running Fridays/Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 4 o’clock through Sept. 8 at The Stella Adler Theatre (seats only $15). To reserve tickets call (213) 712-6944 or online at townestreet.org.
Well … I guess that’s my sermon for this week. Hallelujah!