Though the 60's are long gone, Marijuana is a leaf that never dies. It's something our parents sent down to our generation unintentionally and often unknowingly. Though marijuana has been around the block most of us try to deny scoring with Mary Jane. However, the Los Angeles play 'Chicken' has no problem admitting to it. The play even opens with the lead character's indulging upon Mary Jane's essence. Though Mary Jane may be the glue the holds the characters together through thick and through thin, the purpose of 'Chicken' is not to encourage the use of an illegal substance. In fact at some points the play sheds light on the consequences that derive from Mary Jane's seduction. The purpose of "Chicken" is actually to portray real people in a real way.
"Chicken" has created such a stir in Los Angeles that even celebrities were sent rushing in to see it on opening night. Among them was Billy Bob Thornton, Mccully Culkin, and Academy Award nominee, Bruce Dern who was also a producer of the play.
For those of you who see 'Chicken' and think Colonel Sanders, think instead of a tough Jamaican drug lord who goes by the name 'Chicken.' The character is played by Raymond T. Williams who has appeared in a variety of shorts, films and television spots including the highly acclaimed 'Their Eyes were Watching God,' starring Academy Award winner, Halle Berry. His character is funny, yet scary. At one point he had me practically rolling on the ground in laughter and then at another point just the sound of his voice was so frightening I almost jumped out of my seat.
The other characters were gripping as they included a neurotic, a germophobic, the guy who wants to be somebody and the easy going girl who goes with the flow and even though she may not seem like there's much to her there really is. 'Chicken' is comparable to 1994's 'Reality Bites,' the Generation X film featuring Wynona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, and Jeanine Garofalo. The premise similarly based upon four friends who live together and deal with day to day life. Like the film "Chicken" features one roommate who has a crush on another, another roommate who is a homosexual male and above all roommates who all love each other but at the same time get on each other's nerves. Because 'Reality Bites' is one of my favorite movies I hate to say this, but what made 'Chicken' more compelling was that the characters didn't hold back. They spoke like real people speak without any effort to sensor the audience or play to the audience, which in fact was more impressive to the audience.
Never before have I seen a play where I think to myself that the day to day I people I encounter were taken off the streets, put onto a stage and made to say and do everything they would normally do if no one was watching. The play was written in such a real way that is so often neglected in most modern works. It's as if the characters say what they mean and what they feel, and as an audience I'm immediately grabbed because I'm not watching a play I'm watching my friends.
Upon speaking to 'Chicken's' playwright and leading actress, Ashley Reed she admitted that she based all of these characters on real people she met while living in NYC. The leading character, Chicken was based on a drug dealer she had been friends with. Not only did she write about her friends but she even had some of her friends who she attended NYU with, involved in the production process which is how the process evolved. David Schneider who also produced the play had been an assistant of Bruce Dern's and introduced Ashley to Bruce. NYU pals Ryan O'Connor and Sidney Austin co-starred with Ashley, and gal pal Wendy Guerrero helped cast and direct. The magnificent group had years of theater training as well as theatrical credits to their names. During the casting process they discovered Raymond T. Williams and Rachel Germaine who both had multiple film credits. Both Raymond T. Williams and David Schneider have films in the work set to come out as Williams will appear in 'Phat Girlz' and Schneider will produce 'Season's of Guilt.'
So what's next in line for Ashley Reed the great playwright who is so talented she got Bruce Dern who has appeared in over 80 films to produce the first play she's ever written? Well Ashley is so amazing that even before her first play debuted her second play was bought and is in the works to be taken to New York City. If her upcoming 'Father's Daughter,' is anything like 'Chicken' then I'd say it's worth the flight just to see this drama about 'nervous breakdowns.' Ashley is an inspiration to anyone who aspires to write and act as she gives this piece of advice; 'Just f----- do it.' Well I think we'd all f----- do it if we were able to be as successful as Ashley. As producer David Schneider puts it, 'My biggest problem about Ashley is that night after night of watching the play I can't figure out if Ashley's better at writing or acting.'
'Chicken' is the kind of play that will attract the college crowd and even those who perhaps grew up in the sixties as 'Chicken' included some great classic tunes that really brought to life the impact of Mary Jane. It's the kind of play guys can go see with their buddies and girls can see with their girlfriends without getting bored. For anyone who typically views plays as being too boring, too sappy and loathe musicals this is the play for you because it's not like watching a play it's like watching reality unfold in a funny, yet serious way. Tickets are available at Lillian Theater located at the corner of Lillian and Santa Monica. The play is running Thursday-Sunday, December 3rd-18th.
After the fabulous performance, the cast along with those attending the play, headed over to Los Angeles hot spot "Tokio." The party was filled will laughter, fun and dancing.
Photos courtesy of Lawrence Davis