A BIG GIRL'S GUIDE TO LOVE(World Premiere)
By Jennifer Porter Kennard
DVA Productions, Inc.
Directed by Sheran Goodspeed Keyton
Set Design by David Ruffin
Light Design by Nikki Deshea
Costume Design by Sheran Keyton
Sound Design by Joe Rogers
Light Tech: Sheridan Keyton
Sound Tech: Jordan Cooper
Stage Manager: Jennifer Porter Kennard
Michele Rene - Sloane Davis
Carole N. Smith - Sandra Miller
Heaven DeLeon - 10 year old Sloane Davis
Samantha Clayborn - Jeannie Jones
Tyrone King - Alan Payton, Ensemble
Wesley Harris - Taye Williams
Gabriel Sheffield - Tyree Bennett, Ensemble
Rick Spivey, Jr. - Djimon Ababwe, Darius, Ensemble
Kenneisha Thompson - Waitress, Cocoa, Ensemble
Brad Lowrance - Georgie Brown, Ensemble
Darius Starkes - David, Club MC, Gregory, Ensemble
Michael Craig Rains - Mr. Hollings, Ensemble
Marion Goodspeed - Pastor Fred Riley, Ensemble
Reviewed Performance: 5/18/2012
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The first full-length play, written by Jennifer Porter Kennard, had dialogue that flowed naturally and created recognizable characters. The script allowed room for the actors to develop their characters into believable people with whom the audience could relate. Often, the laughter from the audience seemed to be more about that recognition than the words being delivered although there were a few memorable one-liners, such as one delivered by Sloane's friend Sandra, comparing men to M&Ms.
Theater is an art form the audience expects to be drawn into. This play contained a voiceover between scenes which disconnected the audience from the action. While mostly entertaining, the voiceover at times became distracting and I found myself wishing for it to be replaced by a character breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly.
Director Sheran Keyton clearly demonstrated her expertise as she skillfully created scenes that had the audience feeling as though they were actually sitting in Sloane's living room, watching real people in real situations. The combination of a good script with this seasoned director proved to be an excellent pairing.
Michele Rene as Sloane Davis expertly delivered lines with great timing and inflection, helping the audience get to know her character quickly and well. Pairing with Rene was Carole Smith, believably portraying her best friend, Sandra who, although well-intentioned, gives just a little too much advice. Heaven Deleon, playing a 10-year-old Sloane who seemed to be haunting the adult Sloane at just the right moments, provided an amusing twist but, as is common with younger actors, sometimes rushed through her lines. Still, Heaven did a great job with her attitudes and body language during her brief scenes. I found myself hoping for bigger involvement in the show for this promising young actor. Samantha Clayborn delivered a sometimes over-the-top performance as Jennie Jones, the blushing bride-to-be.
The beginning of Act II brought a funny showcase for Brad Lowrance as a cross-dressing singer. However, this scene did little to advance the plot and seemed to only serve as entertainment.
The highlight of the show for me came in the speed-dating scene in Act II. This scene showcased the ensemble and revealed the dedication of the cast who clearly treated what some may consider minor characters as seriously as they would a principle role. The laughter from the audience was nearly constant during this scene. The brief appearance of Michael Craig Rains as a somewhat psychotic, recently-divorced man was especially fun.
Ensemble members portrayed multiple characters with expertise. They all did a great job and are worthy of mention but there were a few that stood out. Kenneisha Thompson, who played three characters, did so with such skill that, absent a playbill, the audience may not have realized all three were played by the same actor. Of the characters portrayed by Darius Starke, my favorite was Gregory, subtly portrayed as a man looking for the perfect mate during the speed-dating scene. Early in the show Rick Spivey, Jr. convincingly portrayed Djimon Ababwe, an immigrant from Africa with a constant smile on his face, and led the audience to laughter.
This was the production's first performance and as could be expected for an opening night, the lighting transitions were sometimes slow but I would expect that to improve in future performances. The set was well designed by David Ruffin, with a primary set and two secondary areas that served multiple purposes in believable ways. The stage crew deftly made scene changes, even once cleverly dressed as waiters clearing tables. The costuming for this contemporary show as designed by Sheran Keyton was simple and appropriate.
Overall, the show delivered what an audience expects from a comedy ' laughter and entertainment. Throughout the show there were moments and characters that provided the audience with glimpses of familiarity. Judging from the consistent laughter, I suspect that each member of the audience found someone to relate to and a rare opportunity to laugh at themselves. A Big Girl's Guide to Love is a show well worth seeing during its limited run.