This may be hard for my friends and TV show viewers to believe, but I was considered really smart all through school. There are several classes that I wish I had paid more attention to in college, though, instead of dating the professors. (And I mean just dating, nothing more. I still got As, though. How charming must I have been?)
One of those classes was Technical Theatre. I regret it now because I wish I knew lighting design for my show, so I wouldn’t look so awful on it all the time. I’ve been doing “Karen’s Restaurant Revue” for years, and no matter how bad I look now, people who meet me still say, “I almost didn’t know it was you because you’re so much prettier in person.” And I don’t even look good anymore, so how bad is my show lighting if fans think I look even worse on TV?!
Dorian Logan, Harvy Blanks, Darryl Alan Reed, Maceo Oliver, and Adolphus Ward.
Photo by Roger Mastroianni.
Besides missing out on the lighting aspect of the class, I didn’t even let set design enter my consciousness. I can’t even make a decision on pillowcases for myself, so how could I envision creating someone else’s universe?! (FYI--One of my favorite Oscar categories has always been the set decoration part of set design. It’s like magic to me.)
I’ve always been in awe of set artists, so maybe that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to my professor; he was an excellent designer, (of both sets and what he had on me.) But I chose to play hide and seek with his little daughter rather than pick his brain. My bad, to the max.
My respect for the craft was at the forefront of my brain when I walked into the Pasadena Playhouse the other night for the opening of “Cuttin’ Up” by Charles Randolph-Wright, which takes place in a local African-American barbershop, and laid eyes on Michael Carnahan’s set, which was perfect. It instantly set the scene and put me in a good mood to receive the play. My seats were so good that I didn’t really need binoculars to discern the faces of the actors. I was just using them to study every detail of the set. I wanted to get up there and sit in a barber chair myself.
The script, direction, and actors totally delivered an excellent night at the theater. We laughed, we cried, we grooved to the background music, which was often referenced in the dialogue. And while all the characters were representative of the culture, I was happy to see a dearth of the usual negative stereotypes.
There’s not much you need to know about the plot beforehand. It’s simply the daily activities in a local barbershop, peppered with some of their memories, a dash of angst, and ultimately lessons learned along the way. The cast is comprised of seven males and one female (lucky girl!), with five of them playing multiple roles (which actually took me a few seconds to catch on to, due to the amazing wardrobe and wig work.) The casting is spot-on, the best I’ve seen in a long while. And the actors themselves are all excellent. Not a weak one in the bunch.
Nevertheless, I had two slight favorites. Harvy Blanks as the flashy Rev. Carson brought down the house. And by the second act, I realized that I was really interested in watching Dorian Logan as Rudy, the young barber. He just has a stage presence that draws you in. And, at the after-party, the playwright told me that this is Dorian’s first professional gig since receiving his MFA at UCLA, one of the four colleges I attended. And I didn’t even date a professor there! Just the star of the Theatre Department. (One of the best moves I ever made, BTW.)
My favorite part of the show was actually the classy curtain call. It added a special touch to a special play. It left us all in the good mood that the scenic design had begun. You can’t ask for more out of an evening in the theatre.
Cuttin’ Up running through April 15
Pasadena Playhouse 39 S. El Molino Ave. Pasadena 626-356-PLAY www.Pasadenaplayhouse.org