Mah’gee Foster in Me vs. Me.
6’10: A Showcase of African-American Theatre
By Lou Johnson, Red Biddix,Brandi Mitchell, Mah’Gee Foster, Adarion Smith, and Gary Brice
Presented by Smoked Apple Productions
Directed by Nipsey Green, Red Biddix, Brandi Mitchell, Mah’Gee Foster, Iarionne, and Gary Brice
Review by Eli Keel
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Eli Keel. All rights reserved.
(Full disclosure, I also wrote a preview of 6’10 for Insider Louisville. Nipsey Green and I met for coffee, and I attended approximately an hour of their dress rehearsal.)
Louisville’s theatre scene is already packed with various ten minute play festivals, so the arrival of a new company performing another evening of ten minute plays could have been nothing more than extra noise in our already bustling scene.
6’10 distinguishes itself from other Louisville ten minutes play festivals on a variety of levels, not the least of which is the explicit promise of the title. This is theatre written, performed, directed and produced by African-Americans. Louisville has a surfeit of semi professional and community theatre companies, including specialty companies based around women, Hispanic speakers, children, LGBTQIA, and puppet lovers; but to my knowledge no company is aimed at showcasing Louisville’s African-American artists.
The most obvious operational difference of 6’10 was the general atmosphere. 6’10 was held at local gallery Open, and from the first moment the audience walked in the door, 6’10 seemed a lot more like a great party than a night at the theatre. Actors wandered around, drinks were being served, and every body was hanging out. Excellent local musician Soul River Brown was tuning his guitar and his trumpet player was warming up. Brown opened the evening with a three-song set that left me convinced I need to see more of his high-energy blues and soulful rock.
We were then introduced to out host B Shatters, a local poet who has been blowing up this year, with performances in The Smoketown Poetry Opera and The Slant Culture Theatre Festival. I’ve seen him perform several times, and I’m a fan of his work.
Shatters mostly stayed away from spoken word during 6’10, only offer a tidbit or two later in the proceedings. Personally, I could have used more poetry, but what we got instead, while less theatrical, was still fun. He cracked jokes, took selfies, talked about the plays we were seeing, and called out members of the audience. It was an ongoing conversation, and it defined the party atmosphere of the night. As the evening wore on the fourth wall became an open patio door and audience members started talking back.
The chill atmosphere persisted even in the middle of the long breaks between plays. At times scene changes stretched to five minutes. Weirdly enough, this didn’t derail the action or energy of the evening. Shatters was able to keep the audience engaged and entertained. Scene breaks were a chance to grab a drink, hit the restroom, listen to Shatters, or even talk over the play that we had just seen.
The plays themselves were a mixed bag, as is always the case with new ten-minute collection.
I could have done without The Nag, by Lou Johnson. The basic plot and characters had plenty of room for comedy, mostly provided by Nipsey Green as a Jamaican tour guide. Unfortunately the climactic moment consists of some pretty casual domestic abuse played for laughs.
The Andrew Play, written, performed, and directed by Red Biddix had some problems as well. Biddix set herself a big task by producing her entire one person show by herself, and she maybe should have gotten another set of eyes to point out problems. Thankfully, The Andrew Play works anyway, saved by Biddix’s stage presence and performance, one of the strongest of the evening.
Black in Time, by Brandi Mitchell was perhaps over all the most successful piece of the evening, with strong performances, solid writing, and a central conceit that allowed for social commentary and great humor. Two activists from the 1960’s are shot forward in time to our “post racial” society and are in turns delighted and horrified by what they see.
The plays took a break as burlesque performer Monet Magnolia gave us an all too brief glimpse of her skills. I don’t want to get all male gaze-y here, but it was titillating and great, and left me with the conviction that all ten-minute play festivals should feature sexy dancing. My only request would be that next time we balance the scales and have a sexy fella dancing as well, for the teasing of those inclined in that direction. Fair is fair.
Star Crossed Lovers, by Adarion Smith, featured a strong performance by Gary Brice, but the tale of tragedy, faith, fate, and love was too pat, and just a little cloying for my taste.
Me vs. Me was less a play, and more a staged poem for two voices. Mah’gee Foster, the playwright and one of the performers, has a hypnotic stage presence, and a gift for language. Well into her seventies, Foster brought the weight of her whole life to the stage. It was powerful and arresting stuff.
Blind Date, written and directed by Gary Brice was the final and funniest play of the evening. Brice was frequently guilty of going for big laughs instead of character development, but that didn’t matter to the audience, many of whom I saw literally crying with laughter
Not all the credit for this piece’s success should go to Brice. He had the best ensemble of the evening, and Blind Date would not have worked without the fearless, exuberant, and nuanced performance of lead actress Lanisha Gholston. She managed to keep ten minutes of near constant orgasm interesting, when a lesser actress would have worn the joke out in two minutes, tops.
6’10 was a one night only show, but producer Nipsey Green promises there will be many more, as Smoked Apple is hoping to bring us a new round of ten minutes plays on a quarterly basis.
While rocky in patches, and tonally foreign to more uptight theatregoers, 6’10 succeeded and entertained well enough that I’ll certainly go back for the return engagement.
6’10: A Showcase of African-American Theatre
December 12, 2014, 8:00 pm
Smoked Apple Productions
at Open Gallery
2801 South Floyd Street
Louisville, KY 40204
[box_light]Eli Keel is a Louisville based playwright, poet, story teller, and freelance journalist. He has been published in Word Hotel, his plays have been produced by Theatre  and Finnigan Productions, and he has was invited to read his work at the 2014 Writer’s Block. He is a frequent contributor to Insider Louisville, where he has been given the (informal) title of “Chief of the Bureau of Quirk.”[/box_light]