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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
— Simon Saltzman
New Brunswick, 732-249-5560. $28.50 to $37.50. Plays through Sunday,
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 www.menwhosing.org.
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.
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.
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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