The Bones of Lesser Men Theater Review - This Is One Great Play!

In a small diner in Brooklyn, New York, single mom Elly (Staci Ashley) circles her establishment, cooking, cleaning, straightening, while her regular customers gather, banter and spar over current events, neighborhood gossip, apple pie and coffee. The major topic of discussion, directly and indirectly, always seems to comes back to the current Black gubernatorial candidate Collins.

Freedom (l.) and Carl Crudup in "The Bones of Lesser Men"

Manic, lottery playing Brooklyn (William Christopher Stephens) sees Collins as the long awaited answer for the poor people of his community, particularly for himself. Old Man Free (Carl Crudup) is not impressed with the politician since he has kept company with real Black men of significance, namely Dr. King, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali. He spins a story about his chance meeting with them for Elly’s young son, Aussy (Preston D. Parker) every opportunity he gets. Discontented Junior (Freedom) has little patience for talk of the miracles this Collins will perform as governor, nor for the fabled famous encounters of the old man’s ramblings. But he puts up with the two men because the alternative is to go home to his wife, Vanessa.

Randa Walker, Antonio Ramirez, Staci Ashley in "The Bones of Lesser Men"

Junior also frequents the diner because he is sure to run into beautiful Summer (Randa Walker), the prize of the projects and Collin’s not to secret mistress. Finally, there is Tip (Antonio Ramirez), the hustler who flies in on a whirl, promising that whatever you might need, he had in his bag of trick at a rock-bottom price.

So what happens when Brooklyn’s campaigning for Collins reaches critical mass? And what do the folks at the diner do when they notice a steady stream of new bruises every time Summer comes to the diner? And can anyone really tell Elly to stop chasing the mailman down the street because that letter from her long lost Charlie is just not coming?

The Bones of a Lesser Men echoes many notes familiar to the African American drama. The cast of characters that inhabit the small diner, all people we know from around the way, the drunk with the fantastic stories, the dissatisfied business man who is doing better than most, but still only doing well enough to get by. The pretty girl that uses what she’s got to get what she wants. The humble business owner who provides the place where these lost souls can drift back to, to regroup and be grounded by something, even as she herself is wounded and in need of safe harbor. This piece visits Baptist church for a spell and sings an impromptu Negro spiritual.

Carl Crudup (l.), William Christopher Stephens & Freedom in "The Bones of Lesser Men"

Playwright Yves Lola St. Vil’s has a wonder sense of character in her dialogue. She has managed to reinvigorate these stock characters with humanity beyond the caricatures they have become in modern drama. The story is equal parts slapstick and profound tragedy. In short, she has taken the tried and true elements of the classic “Momma on the couch” play and made them feel contemporary.

Very much in the tradition of A Raisin in the Sun, these souls are desperate to find something or someone to invest their hopes in. Just as the insurance check symbolized hope and new beginning for the Younger Family, so does the Collins politician for Summer and Brooklyn. For Junior, it’s Summer. For Elly, it’s the mailman. Everyone’s sights are stubbornly fixed on people and objects outside of themselves; they are constantly reaching for that one thing or person that they can see but will always be out of their reach. Free seems to be the only character who understand to any degree that hope and realizing your dreams starts from within.

Staci Ashley & Randa Walker in "The Bones of Lesser Men"

Bravo to a splendid cast. Without a weak link in the company, each actor showed particular skill in delivering the show’s lengthy, emotional monologues. From introspection to fire, silliness to sadness, this company performed at a finely trained unit, without a shred of “acting” to be found the entire evening. Well Done. Kudo also to director L. Flint Esquerra, for his skillful staging and incisive pacing. It was quite an achievement to stage such a full world of characters without feeling the confines of the small space of The Met Theatre.

Go see The Bones of Lesser Men at the Met Theatre in Hollywood. It will make you feel. It will make you think. It does exactly what great theater, what great art is suggested to do.

The Bones of Lesser Men opened August 22, 2008 and has extended its run until October 12, 2008.

The Met Theatre
1089 N. Oxford Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90029

Wednesdays - Saturday @ 8pm
Sundays @ 3pm.

For reservations call: 323-957-1152

Photos by: Paul Koslo

-updated 9/21/08-

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