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A CurtainUp Review
A nice, average Joe kind of man discovers oil beneath his house in his Black neighborhood in Detroit, where, with the lure of easy money, all hell breaks loose. At the same time across the world two friends, an Israeli and a Palestinian, put on a play to try to effect change and they seem to achieve one magical, hopeful moment. In Washington, DC, presidential advisors come up with creative solutions for alternative energy sources.
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This rambunctious play shows what happens when a freewheeling social crusading playwright with a sense of humor runs amok in global issues, like a kid let loose in a candy shop. As far as content is concerned, he may have left out tooth decay and endangered wolves in Yellowstone, but everything else is surely included. Post graduate level Bush-bashing joins themes of oil addiction, the military, presidential debates, underserved urban communities, ads for free rain ponchos, phalluses, terrorists, blundering government, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Detroit Tigers. And it's all punctuated with visual pop-ups that say, in effect, let's not forget the genocide in Africa.
While initially appearing to be a scattershot, crazy free-for-all, the story pulls together as links form in some feral geometry where politics meet the absurd. Split second changes send stories out in different directions, picking up ramifications and sometimes converging as they play out. Serious fun reveals serious issues as events ignite a community's internal tensions.
African American character sketches extend from a sincere reverend and some "just folks" through a concerned congresswoman and wildly non-PC and very entertaining, hip hop hoods. It's well orchestrated and it all works except maybe for a minor hokey moment when two lines of evacuees going in different directions break out in song. The brick and graffiti set suggests an urban down-market neighborhood with one incongruity -- the base of an oil rig. The set design is quite versatile, as pull-out walls become the West Bank.
As is so often the case in Philadelphia productions, all the actors are excellent. Craig Allen Edwards, heartwarming as lead character Curtis Walker, is also several others, notably a Saudi. Maureen Torsney-Weir and Sean Christopher-Lewis go through amazing transformations in their smorgasbord of roles. Kaci M. Fannin could run for congress, and Delante G. Keys is remarkable-- what a talent! An extra word on Tim Moyer, long an InterAct staple, who's as reliable as planetary orbits. In this play he's a Texas oil man, a dopey Bush, George Steinbrenner, the German Chancellor, an Aryan Nation auto body boss, attorney, scientist, and more. Multitalented Moyer will make a role work and bring it home.
This work is topical although it's built on a bedrock of concern for humanity. The story's Everyman tries to find a better future for his neighborhood, and the West Bank kids believe their little play may have changed a few minds and opened some eyes. Black Gold's horrendous issues are delivered with a counterintuitive, persistent sense of joy and hope. The show received a well deserved curtain call, which you don't see that much in the theater these days.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
The Playbill Broadway YearBook
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide