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BWW Review: THE LATRELL SHOW Is an Uneven but Ultimately Powerful One-Man Show

The show streams through June 27

BWW Review: THE LATRELL SHOW Is an Uneven but Ultimately Powerful One-Man Show

The virtual premiere of IAMA Theatre Company's THE LATRELL SHOW kicks off with a Very Special Episode of the titular talk fest, hosted by Latrell Jackson (Brandon Kyle Goodman), a flamboyant, queer Black man, who is, for the first time, not welcoming any guests, intending to hold down the fort himself. He starts off gabbing about how he and his husband are adopting a child, which segues into a celebration of celebs who give their children unusual names. (He decides he's going to name his baby Mu' Fucka.)

He also revels in his adoration of Queen Angela Bassett and relives a significant portion of her comedy-romance hit "Waiting to Exhale," including what he perceives as "one of the most famous lines in cinema": "Get your shit. Get your shit and get out!" It's difficult to tell if he's joking because they're such basic lines of dialogue (though the scene in the film is indelible), or perhaps Goodman, who wrote the show as well, is making fun of Latrell for thinking he's so highly cultural but is, in reality, basic and vapid like too many talk-show hosts. Like those other hosts, his persona is larger than life, though there isn't much weight behind it (think Wendy Williams), which means the attitude becomes more strident than sassy and the gimmick quickly turns tiresome.

BWW Review: THE LATRELL SHOW Is an Uneven but Ultimately Powerful One-Man Show
Photo by Tom Dowler/Long Haul Films

Just when it reaches the point where it's almost unbearable, the show takes a hard turn, cutting to a frustrated office worker named Jeremiah, who is in a psychiatric session trying to process his rage at living in an America where Black lives do not matter to everyone and where being gay is considered a "stain" by many in the Black community. He has plenty of reasons for his rage, especially when it comes to passive racism and how it manifests in even the most well-meaning people.

From there, the show cuts back and forth between Latrell and Jeremiah, while both break down the horrors of today's Black life. The balance makes Latrell's exaggerated personality more palatable and the show more engrossing as the psychological fallout from being both queer and Black in America builds to a manifesto of fury.

Scenic and costume designer Song Yi Park sets a tone that is both simple and vivid, clothing Latrell in appropriately outrageous garb and jewelry on an uncomplicated yet colorful set and costuming Jeremiah in the mundane, forgettable attire of a generic office worker who gets lost in the sea of other drones. Lighting designer Josh Epstein does fantastic work as the show morphs from lighthearted to urgent.

BWW Review: THE LATRELL SHOW Is an Uneven but Ultimately Powerful One-Man Show
Photo by Tom Dowler/Long Haul Films

Actor/writer/activist Goodman is a strong performer and it's impressive that he holds the show up on just his shoulders (there are some lines of dialogue fed to him from offstage), though the show would have been better served if the co-directors-IAMA co-artistic director Stefanie Black and company member Devere Rogers-had reined him in while portraying Latrell. Once we see Latrell as himself, not "on" for the audience, there's more depth and modulation to the performance, which, of course, is purposeful, as Latrell is designed to be one-note onscreen.

On the flip side, the contrast between Latrell and Jeremiah is smart as it shows two very different types of people struggling with the same slings and arrows of bigotry and discrimination. It's also hard not to wonder if they aren't not just two sides of the same coin, but perhaps the same person overall. Couldn't Latrell be the successful, confident, wealthy, famous and fabulous version of Jeremiah? Couldn't Jeremiah have created Latrell in his head to save his sanity? When he's onstage of THE LATRELL SHOW, it's a safe space, where he can rage against the machine with a captive audience versus the fury he can hardly repress from the experiences in his own dull, monotonous life. Perhaps Latrell simply reflects the invisibility Jeremiah feels about his own life and the struggles of Blacks still, today.

Filmed at the Pico Playhouse for the IAMA Theatre Company, THE LATRELL SHOW streams on demand through June 27. Tickets are $15 per household and available at www.iamatheatre.com.



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