BWW Review: SASSY MAMAS - Laughs, Laughs and More Laughs at Karamu
Sometimes theater is high drama. At other times it's for learning about history or philosophy. "Sassy Mamas," now on stage at Karamu, is on stage for one purpose only...to create outlandish laughter.
If you are lucky enough to get a ticket to "Sassy Mamas," yes, "lucky enough" because even though the show just opened, ducats are tough to obtain, you are in for a great time.
A sold-out house, mainly populated by African American women "of a certain age," found much to entertain them. From the first laugh, which hit about two lines into the show, until the screaming standing ovation ending, the ladies and the cast were part of a love/laugh in.
Celeste Bedford Walker's script centers on three successful single friends who decide that, "why should males have all the fun."
The trio are Jo Billie, a widow trying to break out of the doldrums after her husband, the love of her life, died; Wilhemina, a member of the President's cabinet and a confirmed "single" (think Condoleezza Rice); and a divorcee, Mary, who was blind-sided by her husband leaving her for a younger woman. Each is attractive and financially comfortable.
They decide that maybe the "cougar" life might not be so bad.
Multi-award winning playwright, Celeste Bedford Walker, knows women, especially African American women. She creates characters who are believable, not stereotypes, have emotional depth, and whom we love from start to finish.
Kimbely Sias is character-perfect as Jo Billie who covers up her grieving with wisecracks and sensuous moves. Jeanne Madison nicely creates Wilhemina as a self-conceived ice cube who purportedly doesn't need or want a man in her life. Mary, Rebecca Morris's alter-ego, is an up-tight-woman who has turned to HGTV buying as an emotional outlet for her reaction to her husband's abandonment.
These are three wonderful actresses who have a wonderful time playing wonderfully-written roles.
Walker matches each woman with a different kind of guy, adding to the fun.
Jo Billie's hunk of choice is LaDonte, with a body covered with tattoos, thrusting hips that make Elvis's moves amateur by comparison, and is totally without scruples. He's perfect for a-renta-toy to use and throw away when he's no longer needed. The totally uninhibited Cameron Woods plays "sexy, sexy" with ease. One of the audience of uninhibited audience-ladies wished out loud that she had a dollar to shove into his tight fitting jeans.
Classy Wilhemina gets involved with Wes, a journalist assigned to do a story on her, who turns out to be charming, tall, dark and handsome. When Michael Head, who plays Wes, appeared on stage shirtless, a steamed up woman sitting behind me bellowed, "That is one hunky piece of guy man," to the delight of her high-fiving "gal" friends.
Up-tight Mary lights upon Colby, a gardener who has come to help her groom her African greenhouse garden. Very young Bryon Tobin turned on the "mommy instincts" of the ladies in the audience, one of whom moaned, "That is one damn pretty child," with the word pretty divided into five syllables, with the first held for a five count, followed by a "u-hmm."
Yes, the audience was having fun! (At times it was as much fun listening to the audience as the actors.)
Not only does Walker know her characters and her audience, and Karamu's sassy mammas know how to ply their acting trade, but director Tony Sias knows how to pace a comedy, build hysteria through double takes and extended pauses, and tickle the audience's funny bones.
Costumer Inda Blatch-Geib creates a fashion show of high fashion, African designed patterns, and marvelous hats. Her set design of three different rooms also carries out her strong aesthetic talents.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Karamu's "Sassy Mamas" has the right balance of laughs, pathos, visual excitement and empathy to delight. It's a fluffy romantic comedy that fully satisfies! Huzzahs!
"Sassy Mamas" continues through March 4, 2018 at Karamu, 2355 East 89th Street, which has a fenced, lighted parking lot adjacent to the theatre, and provides free parking. For ticket information call 216-795-7077.