Monday, April 5, 2010

The Poetry of Pals

Langston and Nicolas

Town Street Theatre’s current ambitious World Premiere Production of Bernado Solano’s “Langston and Nicolas” explores the long friendship of the American poet and the Cuban, Langston Hughes (Justin Alston, the younger and Brian Evaret Chandler, the older Langston) and Nicolas Guillen (Chris Rivas, the younger, Armando Ortega, the older Nicolas and Carlos San Miguel, the senior Nicolas). Currently running at the Stella Adler the play is, at best, a very ambitious production.

Conceived and directed by Nancy Cheryll Davis, the story spans over forty years of the two poets friendship obliquely discussing shades of homosexuality; the passions of poetry and politics as well as a strong polemic regarding racial discrimination.

Seventeen members of the cast include multiple casting for not only Hughes and Guillen as younger and then older men, but with the supporting cast appearing in many guises. The script leaps back and forth in time, each time announced in voice over accompanied by images of Harlem and Havana (mostly Havana) created by Nathaniel Bellamy. Director Davis keeps the audience guessing with split focus on the overly wide stage. Action in some scenes center stage in pantomime takes unintentional precedence over the important meat of the scene going on far to one side or another. Choreography by Nancy Renee is professional and enthusiastic.

A passionate recitation of one of Hughes’ poems, "The Negro Mother," by Tené Carter Miller (poetry of both men is featured in several scenes of the play) brought a strong reaction from the near capacity audience for Sunday’s matinee.

Over all, however, a diversity of acting styles and the plethora of characters detracted from, rather than added to the presentation of the piece.

Even with the very professionally designed program by Forrest Gardener of 3AM Sound (he also designed sound for the show), it was difficult at times to figure out just who was who and when was when and where we were at any given time.

The Town Street Theatre’s dedication to the promotion of plays by and for the African American community is to be applauded, along with their continuation of their TST Musical Theatre Camp 2010 to be held for local youth from July 10th until August 14th.

Langston and Nicolas
A Town Street Theatre Production
At The Stella Adler Theatre
6773 Hollywood Boulevard (Second floor)
Hollywood, CA 90038

Friday and Saturday at 8PM Sunday at 3PM
Through May 2, 2010
Reservations: 213 624 4796
$25 Top

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