(Please click on the title to see the entire review.)
Katori Hall's new play at Signature Theatre about a family from the projects in North Memphis is a mixed bag. On the plus side, the play has great vitality and sharp characterizations by an excellent cast. On the other hand, every 4th word is the N word, the conversations are often extremely obscene, and much of the rapping was beyond my comprehension. I was strongly tempted to leave at intermission (as a handful of people did). Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you won't find this sad tale of how people get trapped in poverty surprising. I especially liked Joaquina Kalukango as Cookie, the 13-year old girl who is the focus of the play. Tonya Pinkins is powerful as her grandmother, the only working member of the family. Marsha Stephanie Blake makes a strong impression as her mother Crank, a recovered crack addict, as does Corey Hawkins as Buggy, her long-absent father, just returned from the war in Iraq. David Gallo's set and Clint Ramos' costumes serve the play well. Patricia McGregor directed. At 2 hours 40 minutes, the play could definitely use some trimming.
A few comments about the Signature Center:
With two plays now running, all the seats in the cafe and the rest of the lobby were taken. It will be interesting to see how crowded it will get when the third theater opens.
The configuration of the Linney Theatre for Hurt Village allows seating access from only one side, making it necessary to climb over as many as 12 people to get to your seat. Neither the Linney nor the Griffin Theater has any shield to prevent bright light from the lobby from flooding the theater if anyone exits during the play. I hope these kinks can be ironed out.