COMING OF AGE ON STAGE

At the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, a coming of age play in what might be described as a coming of age theatre, entitled Good Grief, now through March 27th. It is written by coming-of-age playwright Ngozi Anyanwu,

No, it is not about the life and times of the cartoon character Charlie Brown. As I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites, it is about a sensitive, if overwrought, Afro American girl coming to terms with her angst filled life and the tragic death of her puppy love in suburban Pennsylvania.

To be sure, it is the stuff of student drama workshops, where wanna be playwrights and screenwriters are told not to conjure up far away fantasies, but to pen real stories from their budding lives.

Good grist for the Douglas, which was founded to be a stage for new works and new voices, a satellite of sorts for the mother lode Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson and Mark Taper Forum downtown.

Not incidentally, now at the Taper is a riveting revival of “Zoot Suit,” which 40 years ago raised the curtain on the very political and public Latino experience in L.A.

In contrast, “Good Grief “evokes the main character’s Nigerian roots, but is very personal, and to anyone who has been parent to an adolescent girl, very familiar.

She was, shall I say it, a drama queen, lots of exclaiming, and gestures, intense faces, some crying. She loses her best friend, loses her virginity , but not her anxieties.

A grief counselor would have helped, though her caring parents, wonderfully played and effecting, deserved the applause they received during the play.

And you had to like the principal focus of the play, the young girl, acted no less than by Anyanwu, the playwright herself. It was a hell of debut, a high dive or sorts into the professional pool of the dramatic arts.

Perhaps it was the American suburban oven the story was cooked in, but to me the African sauce had a pinch of kosher salt. One could call the concoction “schmaltzy,” a soulful, timeworn tale.

Helping immeasurably was the staging: the spare sets, by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz , assorted costumes by Karen Perry, and the polished, crisp direction by Patricia McGregor. It made for an engaging evening in the theatre.

 

 

 

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hallkaplan

Parallel careers as an urban planner and a journalist, principally at present airing commentaries on pubic radio 99.1 KBU.FM The many arrows in my quiver have included Emmy award winning reporter/ producer for local Fox Television News, design critic for the Los Angeles Times, urban affairs reporter for The New York Times, an editor of The New York Post, contributor to various popular and professional publications, news services and broadcast outlets, including Reuters, NET, NBC, CBS, NPR and the BBC. Founding editor of the East Harlem (NY) Independent. A diversity of professional positions and consultancies in the private and public sectors, (Metro, Disney Imagineering, Howard Hughes, M. Milken, NYC Educational Construction Fund, US Comptroller of the Currency etc,) assorted academic appointments (UCLA, USC, CCNY, Art Center etc.), and always open to new challenge. And let us not forget fashioning sand castles and acting on 90210, crafting TV docs, design reviews, master plans. Books: "The Dream Deferred: People, Politics and Planning in Suburbia," "L.A. Lost and Found," an architectural history of Los Angeles, "L.A. Follies," a collection of essays, and co-author of "The New York City Handbook." Writings have appeared in academic texts, commentaries on the web, scripts for TV, and wherever, latest the Architects Newspaper, The Planning Report and Planetizen.

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