ZENITH at ACT’s Costume Shop is a powerful world premiere in transition.

Featured (left to right) Indiia Wilmott (Mom 2) Atim Udoffia (Angela, Nia Fairweather (Hazel) at ACT’s Costume Shop.

ZENITH : Drama by Kirsten Greenidge. Directed by Lauren English  at A.C.T.’s Costume Shop, 1117 Market Street, San Francisco, CA. 415-677-9596, or www.sfplayhouse.org. .

  August 16 through September 10, 2017

ZENITH at ACT’s Costume Shop is a powerful world premiere in transition. Rating: ★★★☆☆

Kirsten Greenidge’s 25-plus scene non-linear play Zenith is powerful yet problematic and lost some of its momentum leading to a devastating penultimate scene before a heart rendering coda. As staged at the intimate Costume Shop Theater it is the last in SF Playhouse’s 2017 Sand Box Series producing cost effective productions for emerging playwrights before they move on to the big time. Although it was written about Black families the theme of family turmoil and television’s insatiable need to show every detail of personal disaster is universal. However, the play is not ready for prime time.

A trap for playwrights is the use of exposition to define character or to carry plot forward. Zenith is loaded with exposition cleverly disguised using snippets of multiple TV interviews that attempt and often flesh out the motivations of the main character Angela (Atim Udoffia) a semi-affluent wife of Chuck (Adrian Roberts) and mother of three children (off-stage). Without giving away the event that leads to her becoming a person of interest to TV audiences, Greenridge inserts scenes where the TV camera roles as Angela’s various acquaintances are interviewed adding depth to what made Angela tick.

Angela’s personality is defined in the first scenes where she barges into her sister-in-law Hazel’s (Nia Fairweather) home to take Hazel’s three kids away for the weekend without having made pre-arrangements. It will be an experience of a life time for the kids (6 in all) to commune with nature having a “zenith” experience. The title word “Zenith” is not used until late in the play and is self-deluding as well as pathetic.

There is a lot of unappreciated goodness in Angela’s nature that is semi-ridiculed. One of the Moms 1(Sally Dana) or Mom 2 (India Wilmot) states with sarcasm that she is unlike Angela who “Sends homemade fudge with her 3 page Christmas letter.”  Nor is Angela able to enjoy the simple pleasures of a “girl’s night out” that is one of the best written scenes in the play that allows Dana and Wilmott to steal center stage. Inexplicably, Angela insists that the children should be given Swiss Army knives to use on the trip tipping the audience off on an impending misadventure.

There is a superficial delving into the male-female relationships with individual scenes that are beautifully under played by Chuck (Adrian Roberts) and Hazel’s husband Tim (Khary L. Moye). It defines the matriarchal society in which they live.

Atim Udoffia hits the stage with high energy giving a powerful performance throughout. Nia Fairweather must wait until the final scene to demonstrate her acting ability to match Adrian Roberts’ performance. The direction by the capable Lauren English is hampered by the restricted acting space and bare bones production values. Many lines are lost to various sections of the audience due to seating arrangement of the Costume Theater. Running time is about 100 minutes without intermission.

CAST: Sally Dana as MOM 1; Nia Fairweather as HAZEL: Khary L. Moye as TIM; Adrian Roberts as CHUCK; Atim Udoffia as ANGELA; Indiia Wilmott as MOM 2.

CREATIVE TEAM: Director, Lauren English; Scenic Designer, Jacquelyn Scott; Lighting Designer, Sophia Craven; Sound Designer, Madeleine Oldham; Costume Designer, Ellen Howes; Stage Manager, Alex Bailey Dillon; Casting Director, Lauren English; Casting Associate, Bebe La Grua.

Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm, Sundays at 2pm.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.