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This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

October 13, 1999. All rights reserved.

Review: `Homework’ at Crossroads

I got As and Bs in school, but I’m getting Cs and Ds

in life," admits Kim Coleman, a young Brooklyn-raised African-American

woman cum restless restaurant hostess in perpetual pursuit of happiness.

As the fictional heroine of "Homework" at Crossroads Theater,

this character is about to end another going-nowhere-fast chapter

in her as-yet-unfulfilled life.

An impulsive announcement to her boss, "I quit, oh shit,"

leads Kim to reflect on her unimpressive list of achievements. This

begins with the fun days in the sixth grade, when the most dramatic

event was who played who or what in the Christmas pageant. Kim gets

the role of the sheep. In school, Kim has two best friends. They are

Shakronda, who is exceptionally bright and highly motivated for success,

and Angela, who already has an image of herself as a glamour puss

with a developing agenda for fame and fortune. The trio’s friendship

is halted when Kim’s parents divorce and she is sent to a public high

school where she has to mix with a lot of bad boys who dress funky.

It won’t take you long to notice that Kim, Shakronda, and Angela,

and unsurprisingly Kim’s mother, bear a remarkable resemblance to

each other, except for a little fast twisting or loosening of hair.

All four are played by the actress and comedian Kim Coles, who co-wrote

"Homework" with the play’s director, Charles Randolph-Wright.

And those are only the first of the women that Coles plays, in this

costumes and accessories-weighted show.

Best know for her role in the long-running Fox-TV sitcom series, "Living

Single," Coles appears to having a lot of fun with her play’s

basically self-serving content. I was less amused. Chaotically constructed

to punctuate the high and low points in the lives of the three very

different women who begin as friends, part, follow each other’s careers,

and have a bittersweet reunion, "Homework" is not much more

than a shtick and joke-filled showcase for Coles. But Coles’ ingratiating

personality and impressive versatility seemed to be all that the opening

night audience at Crossroads cared about. A lot of laughter greeted

every predictable pun and aggressively punctuated line.

In her play, as directed with slap-dashing authority

by Wright, there are moments and brief scenes that work well. But

they seem to have more of an affinity for the skits on the Saturday

Night Live TV show than with a well-constructed play. And Coles’ informed

body language and instinct for gross caricature don’t measure up to

the bravura work of such incomparable comedian-imitators as Gilda

Radner or Lily Tomlin.

In an act of largesse, Coles’ enthusiasm for dramatic schizophrenia

is mellowed by the employment of four male actors — Wolfgang Bodison,

Gustavo Rex, Scotch Ellis Loring, Scott Whitehurst — who play

a number of characters, in the broadest sense of the word. Let’s be

honest and say that none of the male roles can compete with the generally

out-sized histrionics of Kim, Shakronda, or Angela, Kim’s aggressive

intimidating mother, or even the motor-mouthed Puerto Rican high school

health instructor who gets down to basics with, "Have some class,

wash your ass."

A lot of territory is covered between the time the girls compete in

a frenetically staged sixth grade Olympics and a revelatory backstage

reunion in adulthood. The Crossroads audience provided the necessary

laugh track for the Ebonic-infatuated, malapropisms-prone Shakronda.

When a student she meets at Harvard and says to her "I’m pre-med,"

Shakronda answers "I’m pre-menstrual." When Shakronda, who

is intent on becoming a doctor, and undeterred by the digressive advances

of a pretentious professor, she is more interested to know, "Who

is going to do my hair in New Hampshire?" It brings the house


The play’s highlight is Coles’ parody of the modeling industry and

photo shoots. This, as it follows the career of Angela, who has becomes

an international model and lip-synching entertainer named Angele,

unhappily married to her photographer. She ends up famous, but miserable.

Kim, on the other hand, tries a little college, trains as a changing

room attendant at Macy’s, takes a class in becoming a back-up singer,

and attends a "This Is Not Working For Me Workshop." This

doesn’t add up to very much. But it does to Kim, whose life changes

for the better when her childhood sweetheart shows up. Let’s give

Coles As and Bs as a delightful entertainer, but Cs and Ds for this

playwrighting effort.

— Simon Saltzman

Homework, Crossroads Theater, 7 Livingston Avenue,

New Brunswick, 732-249-5560. $28.50 to $37.50. Plays through Sunday,

October 31.

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The Garden Statesmen Chorus invites male choral singers

of all ages to perform a broad repertoire of holiday music. Rehearsals

begin Tuesday, October 26, at 8 p.m. in the Food Court at Forrestal

Village. Call William Laurie, 732-225-8193; or hot line, 609-252-1515.

Web site is at

Yardley Players Theater Company will hold auditions for

five males, three females, and a chorus of singers and dancers for

Pippin at the Kelsey Theater, Mercer Community College, on Saturday

and Sunday, October 23 and 24 from 2 to 5 p.m. Call 215-968-1904.

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Call for Entries

The Theatre Guild of New Jersey is seeking new one-act

plays for its annual Festival of One-Acts slated for its 2000 fall

season. Deadline is February 10. Send script and resume along with

SASE to TTGNJ-Managing Director, 2321 Route 33, Robbinsville 08691.

The College of New Jersey is seeking entries for the National

Drawing 2000 Exhibition that will be held in January. Entry forms

and slides are due November 5. Entry forms can be obtained from the

College Art Gallery, TCNJ. Drawings in any medium are eligible. Call

Judy Masterson at 609-771-2633 or 609-771-2198.

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