“Choir Boy” is a Masterpiece at Marin Theatre Company!
Choir Boy is a Masterpiece at Marin Theatre Company!
Marin Theatre Company closes out its 48th Season with a Bay Area premiere of Choir Boy by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the celebrated American Playwright of the Brother/Sister Plays Trilogy and Head of Passes. Kent Gash, who previously directed the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critic Circle’s award-winning production of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at MTC, powerfully directs this exceptionally beautiful piece of theatre. This is pure theatre magic!
Choir Boy takes place at the Charles R. Drew Prep School, an institution devoted to the development of extraordinary young black men. This play is a series of vignettes focusing on Pharus Jonathan Young (Jelani Alladin), a talented singer at the school. Pharus, a scholarship student, is ambitious and has worked hard to become the leader of the school’s famous gospel choir, but he’s also not inclined to hide his natural flamboyance and has to decide how to deal with gay slurs from his classmates.
Director Kent Gash has created an ensemble of performers who work as a unit while each actor manages to maintain his individuality. The primary conflict is between Pharus and Bobby Marrow (Dimitri Woods), member of a prominent family and nephew of Headmaster Marrow (Ken Robinson), while Pharus’ main defender is his roommate Anthony Justin “AJ” James (Jaysen Wright).
Filling out the cast are two more students Bobby’s friend Junior Davis (Rotimi Agbabiaka) and Pharus’ serious friend David Heard (Forest Van Dyke). The Headmaster enlists Mr. Pendleton(Charles Shaw Robinson), a retired Caucasian faculty member, to help the singers work together and think through their difficulties.
Jelani Alladin succeeds in portraying the different sides of Pharus: a young man who wants to be loved and accepted but who understands the need to follow the rules. Dimitri Woods successfully shows Bobby’s frustration, at not getting the respect to which he feels entitled, without becoming a villain. Headmaster Marrow, as portrayed by Ken Robinson, sympathetically shows how the Headmaster is occasionally in over his head, and Charles Shaw Robinson adds some comic relief as Mr. Pendleton, who emerges gradually from being less shy and becoming more authoritative.
McCraney incorporates acappella gospel songs between the scenes, sung brilliantly by his five young leads, directed by Darius Smith and Sound Designer/Assistant Music Director Chris Houston.
The boys’ sharp prep-school uniforms are designed by Callie Floor and Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood’s stately set is circled by portraits of great African-American leaders. Lighting Designer Kurt Landisman’s effective lighting enhances the mood.
Choir Boy is at the top of my list of shows not to be missed!
FLORA LYNN ISAACSON
Photos by Kevin Berne and Ed Smith
Choir Boy began June 9 and has extended its run through July 5 at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley.
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 8:00 pm Wednesdays 7:30 pm
Sundays 7:00 pm
Matinees: Sundays 2:00 pm; Thursday, June 18th at 1:00 pm; and Saturday June 27th at 2:00 pm
For tickets, contact Marin Theatre Company at 415-388-5208 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming up at Marin Theatre Company, to start their new Season, will be The Oldest Boy by Sarah Ruhl from September 10 through October 4, 2015.