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As Much As You Can 

Thursday, Jan 10 2008
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A wedding's about to take place in Chicago – if the attendees don't kill each other first. Paul Oakley Stovall's 80-minute one-act looks at an African-American family that's been affected, over the years, by one member's homosexuality, another's light skin and yet another's birth involving a different father. Jesse (Stovall) is out of the closet but less than forthcoming about his gay marriage to an affable Swede named Christian (Wes Ramsey). Jesse's brother and groom-to-be, Tony (Andrew Kelsey), accepts the disclosure with a gulp and a few glasses of wine, while their sister Evy (Tonya Pinkins) simmers over this reminder that Jesse's "choice" of sexuality runs smack up against her Christian beliefs. Uneasily watching from the background is Ronnie (Yassmin Alers), the half-sister artist who’s flown in from Europe for this tense homecoming. This is a tight little play with many surprises, not the least of which is playwright Stovall's restraint with a story that could have turned into a potboiler or movie-of-the-week fable. Instead, at every turn when the plot involving members of the wedding could bog down in histrionics, Stovall has his characters step back and realize that the world keeps turning, with or without their participation. The result is a quiet, achingly humorous study of a family that manages to survive its self-inflicted crises. Although the ending is abrupt and nearly a throw-away, this comedy-drama shows promise as a slightly longer play. Director Krissy Vanderwalker has assembled a sparkling and self-confident cast whose members tackle the play's high drama and cut-up comedy with equal skill. Brooks is explosively funny, especially in a memorable card-game scene, as the family’s sassy lesbian friend, Nina. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Jan. 4. Continues through Jan. 27, 2008
Reach the writer at smikulan@laweekly.com

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