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A 'Charmed' Life: 'Charmed, I'm Sure' at The Strand

               Onyi Yvette Okoli is a brave, young woman.  To face a live audience alone on stage with barely a prop beyond an invisible pair of designer boots, to regale with tales of her own life in Baltimore and beyond, that takes courage. Happily, for the full house in attendance at The Strand Theater on opening night, Ms. Okoli is more than brave--she is talented, witty, and charming...only fitting, given the title of her series of six monologues, "Charmed, I'm Sure!"

                Ms. Okoli is tall, lithe, African-American woman who strides the boards with a confidence that belies her years. According to the theater program, Ms. Okoli was inspired by Danny Hoch, the founder of Hip Hop Theatre in New York, to write her 90-minute, one-woman show which opens with a look at her affinity for "baby-haired men" and concludes with a bittersweet tale of a broken dream that led to a far brighter future.

                Okoli demonstrates significant range, playing herself as a child, a rambunctious and disobedient teenager, as "the next Tyra Banks," as well as a trio of "prissy white girl" Britney Spears worshippers; her friend Tiara; her guardian angel, the elderly Anne Mayer; and a variety of men, from a self-involved movie date to rhyme-challenged rapper, Blackie; to her own parents, both loving, if a tad over-protective--a mother who confines her children's bike riding to their backyard and an African father who believes the value of a dollar can best be taught by having his daughter spend a summer working in his Detroit salon "washing dirty hair."

                Okoli is perpetual motion on the stage, roaming every corner, whether she's striding like a runway model, cowering in a corner from a bus stop junkie, lounging against a wall as the baby-haired lethario, fumbling in the front seat with her safety belt with her would-be "street pharmacist" boyfriend, typing out a college paper on Hume's utilitarianism or threatening her "Sex and the City" obsessed roommates with a knife when her "inner angry black woman" finally bursts free. She is not afraid to interact with the audience with whom she is always aware, feeding off the energy around her as she instills excitement like the thrilling feeling she describes when it comes to "shopping big."

                Of course, Okoli is not merely the performer, she is also the writer of these comic sketches that make the audience think as well as laugh.  Her third monologue, "Just Run," provides insights into the survival techniques she learned growing up on Baltimore's west side where she learned the best way to avoid "those who'd bust a cap in you as soon as look at you," was to "just run. " However, when you run, you never know whom you might meet along the way, and it is in Okoli's haste to avoid the Morlocks of a "pitch black" night downtown in L.A. that she meets a woman who will become her "guardian angel."

                It is one of many life lessons that Okoli shares with the audience--don't tell a book by its cover (Baby-Haired Men), learn the importance of responsibility (Baby Blue Boots), know that God has his angels here earth to look out for us (Just Run), to thine own self be true (Roommates), to understand our parents' demands of us are for our own good (My Mama Monologue) and as Okoli says, "Sometimes the greatest gift that one can receive is not getting what one wants" (Imagine Me).

                Okoli's first name, Onyi (pronounced Own-Yee) we are told means "gift of God," and this performance was a gift everyone in attendance surely treasured.

                "Charmed, I'm Sure!" is Ms. Okoli's first theatrical work she has produced outside of college. A double major in philosophy and communication at the University of Southern California, she switched her major to theater and has since written and performed many works at the University.

                "Charmed, I'm Sure!" continues its run at The Strand Theatre at 1823 North Charles Street, Fridays and Saturdays now through April 10th. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Tickets may be reserved by phone at 443-874-4917 or purchased online at www.CharmedImSurehitsthestage.com.



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From This Author Daniel Collins