Charlayne Woodard may be best known for her remarkable one-woman shows, but she is by no means limited to the genre. Her imagination really takes “Flight” in the show of the same name (now on Long Beach Playhouse’s mainstage through June 16). It’s not the story you tell but the way you tell it, as has oft been observed, and Woodard’s stellar technique shines through; what might be a loose-knit collection of folk takes in a lesser playwright’s hands becomes a powerful evening of theatre.
The play is set on a Georgia plantation in 1858, where Woodard’s storytellers are not simply entertaining themselves but passing on their traditions to a younger generation, thereby keeping them alive. A charismatic ensemble makes the most of the material under Rovin Jay’s attentive direction. Latonya Kitchen (Oh Beah) and Rayshawn Chism (Nate) make the strongest impression with their vocal and physical presence, with Ebonie Marie, David P. Lewis and Felicia Baxter-Simien providing fine support; Sonya L. Randall’s choreography and Karl Lundeberg’s music add to the magic.
A blind date between a perky public relations gal and a nervous guy who’s a self-described “content whore” might be more than meets the eye. In the case of Sheila Callaghan’s “Elevada” (now at the Chance Theater in Anaheim through June 3), the unlikely coupling of Ramona and Khalil, both of whom plan to “disappear” before long, captivates us from the opening scene and never lets go.
From script to execution, this odd-titled comedy-drama is worthy of South Coast Repertory; nabbing the West Coast premiere and staging it with gusto is a feather in the Chance’s cap. Callaghan’s razor-sharp dialogue is catnip for the quartet of actors, from Gracie Lacey’s Ramona and Ahmed T. Brooks’ Khalil, to Lola Kelly’s June (Ramona’s uptight sister) and Jonathan Fisher’s Owen (Khalil’s goofy roomie). Guys, beware: Lacey’s Ramona is a thief of hearts; she stole mine right off the bat.
Nicholas C. Avila’s direction is a perfect match for Callaghan’s quirky comedic sensibilities. The Chance’s production team—notably Vincent Olivieri’s music and sound design, Kristin Campbell’s scenic design, David Aaron Hernandez’s lighting and Hazel Clarke’s choreography—scores a home run with the bases loaded. Circle this one on your dance card before you fill it with less worthy offerings, folks.
Author: Jordan R. Young
Jordan R. Young is a journalist, show business historian, playwright and theatre critic. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Magazine, Westways, AAA Tour Books, and The People’s Almanac.