Sunday, June 17, 2007

Etta Phifer's Testimonial Shoe Kismet - World Premiere

The Hansberry Project at ACT
June 16th - July 8th
Tickets and Information

This two women show, intimately set and performed, captures the audience’s attention at the very top. Imagine the setting; an elderly lady up early on the morning of her 80th birthday contemplating the course of her life through testimonial conversations with her shoes located throughout her apartment which each hold a significant position in the course of her life. From the beginning this show proves to be unique.

The playwright herself takes the role of the kismet, accentuating the emphasis that the shoes had on Etta’s personal life and ultimate fate as is now present on her birthday. The set (designed by Patti West) accommodates this dichotomy of reality vs. transcendence using different levels and colors, making the worldly apartment lower and washed in rich earthy tones while the realm of the kismet was white and situated upstage on a higher level. The intertwining of these two worlds lay in their strong use of shoes, but at times left one confused as to the true significance behind their connection, leading to some slow points in the story.

Photo Credit: Victoria Lahti

This intriguing show culminates in an ending that does a great job of making the final connection between the two realms, employing the significance of color in the costume changes and the connection between the two characters to address Etta’s struggle. Overall, the simplistic set, intriguing lighting design (Patti West) and dynamic character portrayals by both Demene E. Hall (Etta Phifer) and Shontina Vernon (Kismet), gives rise to a show that is enjoyable and leaves one with thoughts to discuss. There is a beauty that comes through in the honesty of the playwright on human condition and from this questions come forth.

Shontina Vernon’s talent has been recognized through being the first recipient of the Louise Jones MicKinney Playwriting Fellowship Award, which she received for the development of this show. Through the collaboration of Louise Jones McKinney, The ACT Theatre, and its collaborative partner, The Hansberry Project, a theatre that hopes to, “…become a center where the entire community can be enriched by the voices of professional black artists,” great works are produced such as Vernon’s unique and intriguing story.

Check out Etta Phifer’s Testimonial Shoe Kismet at ACT until July 8th.

Review by Rick Skyler

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