BWW Review: FADE TO BLACK marches on at MATCH
FADE TO BLACK is a short form play festival that showcases the work of African American Playwrights in one jam packed evening. Denise O'Neal and company started this thing seven years ago, and for 2019 will be at the MATCH complex through June 29th. It seems a shame this is only a one weekend run, but considering the amount of actors and talent on display it would be hard to keep them together past that. You have ten plays with ten sets, ten casts, ten directors, and ten different playwrights. All of them run only ten minutes at most. It's easy enough to assert that if you don't like something, just wait ten minutes and something new is in front of you!
When I thought about reviewing the festival I felt like it was far too daunting. I could write pages and pages about every single play and review all aspects of them. So please, consider this piece not a review but rather an endorsement of how great the collective shows are. I had an absolute blast watching all of these together, and got to see some of Houston's best talent on display. Everyone is here for the love of theater and it shows throughout. Some of the plays work better than others and some are better acted. Does that really matter though? I suspect each audience member will walk away thinking certain pieces spoke to them more than others, and you'll have to just trust you will have your own favorites.
Standouts from me this year included FROM THIS MOMENT ON by Simone Black and directed by Monet Salone. This work stars two hilarious ladies named Brea Porter and Lydia Singleton who deserve their own show one day. I would watch them in 10 plays in one night! In this piece they are two aging divas who may or may not have criminal tendencies. The pair zing one liners fast and furious at each other and their physical comedy is on point as well.
Another high point was DAZED AND STUNNED written by Renee Nixon and directed by Lea Jones. In this work Carol Davis and Mark Jones play a white couple who have adopted a black son, and they have to face something they never thought would happen as a consequence. The pair of actors bring the right gravitas to a very somber part of the evening, and the direction is well executed.
Dabrina Sanders directed AGRESSION by Darien Mitchell. This piece stars Kristina Sinclair and Derrick Brent in an interesting exchange between a realtor and her client. Microagressions permeate their initial conversation, and these grow to a surprisingly terrifying climax that the cast pulls off believably.
The funniest entry of the night was WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED by playwright Sharai Bohannon and directed by Tonyai Palmer. The cast includes Yunina Barbour-Payne, Olivia Swasey, and Dirk B. Richardson. They play coworkers that witness a horrible accident seconds before the company Christmas party. Their reactions to it are disturbing, horrifying, and basically what every one of us have thought in our heads about another coworker at some point or another. It's a brilliant bit of comedy that had me smiling and uncontrollably laughing followed by bouts of guilt about finding any of this comical. The cast is probably the best of the night, and it is a fitting climax for FADE TO BLACK.
I feel guilty for singling out only four works because the remaining six are also compelling and well staged. There were technical glitches here and there, but nothing that stopped the fun for more than a second. Actually the integration of music and projections work like gangbusters to speed up the switch between each piece. This is a well run festival that speeds by and is always entertaining. It's a celebration of black playwrights, but it is also just plain good theater. FADE TO BLACK is a "can't miss" event, and I plan on hitting it every year that I can. It's a bargain when you consider the plays range from funny to devastating, and feature over 20 of Houston's best actors in one evening.
FADE TO BLACK has a very limited run at the MATCH complex through June 29th. Tickets can be purchased through the MATCH website at https://matchouston.org/events/2019/fade-black-play-festival-2019 .