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
Episodes from urban gang warfare — Tran says he actually joined an Italian gang, but a school principal misidentified him as being in a Vietnamese one, which is quite amusing — are the show's highlights. The rest is an abuse-fueled coming-of-age story from the point of view of a young man trying to find light in America, to defy the curse of invisibility.
The material is scintillating, the presentation of it less so. Physical gestures replicate what's being said, reinforcing, again, the primacy of being earnest — and obvious.
Roger Guenveur Smith's Rodney King, with original sound design by Marc Anthony Thompson, is magnificent. This is probably because Smith doesn't just tell the story of the sexually conflicted victim of the Los Angeles Police Department who unwitting set off an L.A. race riot in 1992 following the acquittal of the officers who beat and electrocuted him, all recorded on videotape.
9820 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Region: Culver City
Smith performs it as a poem while sliding around the stage with balletic grace. Armed with a microphone, which he uses for sound effects, he speaks in hypnotic, rhetorical cadences. Smith intones his prose-poetry sometimes leaning at an angle so as to create the illusion that he's floating. You can't take your eyes off him, or remove focus from the sarcastic twists and turns that fuel his gently expressed rage.
Where the pieces directed by Egan are evocative and nostalgic, Rodney King is a horrifying yet sardonic indictment of race relations in this country. Propelled by its blend of social urgency and poeticism, it's at least in the margins of what might be called "new forms of theatrical expression."
ST. JUDE | Written and performed by Luis Alfaro | Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City | Thu., Sept. 26, 9 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 1 p.m.; Tue., Oct. 1, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 4, 9 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 4 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 7 p.m. (213) 628-2772 | centertheatregroup.org
UNCLE HO TO UNCLE SAM | Written by Trieu Tran with Robert Egan, performed by Tran | Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City | Fri., Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 7 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 4 p.m. | (213 628-2772 | centertheatregroup.org
RODNEY KING | Created and performed by Roger Guenveur Smith | Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City | Thu., Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 7 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 4 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 3, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 7 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 1 p.m. | (213) 628-2772 | centertheatregroup.org