By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
She's encircled by an ensemble of female mourners (Michelle Flowers, Perrine, Lee Sherman and Tamika Simpkins) who recite the imagined anguish of black mothers who lost their sons to the ravages of bigotry and/or police violence: from Emmett Till to Amadou Diallo to Trayvon Martin.
Penelope Lowder's The Follicle Prison War unfolds in a hair salon during civil unrest in L.A. — circumstances that restrict the time during which movie star Dawn Fantasta (Lee Sherman) can purchase hair extensions that do what ethnically black hair doesn't: flow to one side or another when one tosses one's head. The store's Mephistophelian proprietor, Melanie Hawker (Kitu), also is trying to fob skin-whitening cream onto poor, war-torn Dawn. The war actually is being fought in Dawn's soul between urges to be black and urges to boost her career by being "racially ambiguous."
The former urge is reinforced by a trio of black-identity-goading Goddesses (Flowers, Perrine and Simpkins). The production's delight, in Cahrr's staging, is seeing Sherman's Dawn so comedically, emotionally and physically wrenched between the nobility of being black and the temptation of washing that black right out of her skin. Her eyes follow that little jar of skin whitener, like manna from heaven, while the rest of her body tears against it in the cartoon tug and pull of a woman versus herself.
1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Region: Los Feliz
Despite living in one of the most multicultural cities in the nation, we remain woefully segregated, and that segregation was evident in the theater, where I was one of the few white people in attendance. Equally woeful is how our misunderstanding of each other comes from prepackaged media images.
The beauty of this effort is how it comes at you without packaging. In poetry and sketch comedy, it serves up the raw anxieties and psyches of lives being lived. And that's terribly important to see and to feel in a living space like the theater, if we want to know anything at all about our city and the people who occupy it.
BLACK WOMEN: STATE OF THE UNION — TAKING FLIGHT | Plays by Sigrid Gilmer, Lisa B. Thompson, Kellie Dantzler, Tanya Alexander-Henderson and Penelope Lowder | Presented by Katselas Theatre Company and BWSOTU at Skylight Theatre, 1816 Vermont Ave., Hlywd. | Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Nov. 18 | (702) 582-8587 | ktctickets.com