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Review of PASSING STRANGE

 

Passing Strange

Passing Strange
by Eric Sutter and Stephanie C. Lyons-Keeley


Playhouse3
Passing Strange at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT, directed by Sean Harris with book and lyrics by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, created in PP4collaboration with Annie Dorsen, is an aptly named musical which entwines music, theater, and dance in a strangely engaging way. Vibrant and spirited dancing is top-notch thanks to choreographer Darlene Zoller.

A masterful song and spoken word narration by Darryl Jovan Williams (Narrator) effectively weaves together the convoluted story. It is a tale of a young bohemian known only as the Youth (Eric R. Williams) from a black middle-class American background who looks deep into his soul for “the real” through sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Raised by a conservative Christian single mother, his journey takes him from 1976 LA to Amsterdam to Berlin. In a very layered Act 1, the high-energy dance number “It’s Alright” sets a lively tone with a rocker/cheerleader dance piece performed by Williams, Garrett Turner (Mr. Franklin/Joop/Mr. Venus) and Ensemble Karissa Harris, Skyler Volpe, and J’Royce that quickly roused the audience. A shift to the gospel number “Baptist Fashion Show” with Mother (Famecia Ward) and the Youth thickens the plot. As time passes, the strong-minded Youth smokes his first joint at a wayward youth prayer circle in “Arlington Hill.” He later is part of a short-lived punk rock band, but the Youth and the other band members learn more from failure than success. He makes the decision to leave home to develop his musical talents and sets out for Amsterdam, where fun numbers including “We Just Had Sex” keep the action hot. Later he heads to Berlin where he makes yet another life-changing decision and learns another hard lesson in “Paradise.”

Playhouse on park

In Act 2 the Youth reaches a crossroads in West Berlin. With beauty in the midst of chaos, the audience is again roused with wild song and dance. Deepening glimpses of “the real” surface cabaret-style with “Identity” and “The Black One.” The Youth’s experiences begin to change him in his passing from place to place. Christmas soon approaches bringing with it the mounting issues with his mother; he eventually comes of age.

Passing Strange is heady stuff… And just as the Youth does, one also might ask is this “the real”? What is “the real”? And is there something more?

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Stephanie & Wayne

About Stephanie & Wayne

Stephanie is a journalist, writer, editor, and has had several hundred articles published in various newspapers and magazines, many of which still are available online under “Stephanie Lyons Schultz”. She has a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology and was a practicing psychotherapist. She currently is a professor of psychology at WCSU and NVCC in Connecticut. Wayne is an Emmy-Award winning writer, producer, and director. He has produced many programs and documentaries that have appeared on television, and have been distributed to schools, libraries, and home video. Wayne also is a practicing attorney with a Masters degree in Law from NYU. In addition, he is a professor of communications at WCSU. Together, this recently wed couple write, produce, and direct as many of their stage, screen, and TV projects as they can with a full house -- their combined brood of seven! Some of their work has been featured this summer and fall off off Broadway; other work currently is under option. They hope to continue to promote more of their projects in the coming months! Feel free to write whatever comments you like! We want your feedback!