BWW Review: SPUNK at Signature Theatre - It's a Delight
I recall the 1996 wonderful production at Baltimore Center Stage directed by Seret Scott and starring Harriett D. Foy, Stanley Wayne Mathis, and Clayton Le Bouef. Guitar Man was played by Chic Street Man who originated the role and also composed the score.
Thus, I had great anticipation to see how Signature Theatre would deal with this anthology of three short stories. Well, I thorougly enjoyed this rendition under the wonderful direction of Timothy Douglas who helmed the wonderful Arena Stage's NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN. Douglas has assembled a talented tight ensemble of six and demonstrates once again his talent .
Linking three different stories is "Guitar Man" (as mentioned above) here played beautifully on acoustic guitar by Jonathan Mosley-Perry. He really knows how to play the "blues".
Iyone Blake portrays "Blues Speak Woman" and serves as a narrator with a voice that will give you chills.
The first of three chapters called "Sweat" tells the tale of a hard-working laundress (Ines Nassara) who is from an abusive husband (KenYatta Rogers) upset at the fact his wife does the work of Whites. He is so evil he brings a snake home (caged in a crate) to scare his wife and even uses a bull whip to attempt to frighten her. She however gets her revenge and he succumbs to the bite of the snake.
There is a bit of levity in the second story "Story in Harlem Slang". Two zoot-suited gigolos (Marty Austin Lamar as "Jelly" and Drew Drake as "Slang Talk Man" try to con a woman (Nassara) without success thanks to their empty pockets. They do slide and strut over the stage very well though.
The final story "The Gilded Six-Bits) concerns a young couple in love with issues that get resolved. It features Rogers, Blake, Drake, Nassara, and Marty Austin Lamar.
Kudos to the Design Team. Luciana Stecconi designed the wooden planks used as the floor and seats surrounded by the audience, Sherrice Mogjani does the effective lighting, and Kendra Rai does the period perfect Costumes. I loved the zoot-suits.
For those unfamiliar with the works of Zora Neale Hurston, I suggest you do a little background reading to make the play more enjoyable.
SPUNK is an hour and a half with an intermission. It runs until June 23. For tickets, call 703-820-9771 or visit www.sigtheatre.org.
Next up at Signature is the World Premiere musical BLACKBEARD directed by Eric Schaeffer, choreographed by Matthew Gardner, with Book and Lyrics by John Dempsey and Music by Dana P. Rowe. It runs June 18 to July 14.