Curious Theatre is at 1080 Acoma St. in the Golden Triangle, Denver. Performances of “Gloria”: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Curioustheatre.org. Box office: 303-623-0524.
Aurora Fox is at 9900 E. Colfax, Aurora. Performances of “Hooded or Being Black for Dummies”: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Aurorafox.org. Box office: 303-739-1970.
The Aurora Fox is presenting “Hooded or Being Black for Dummies” by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm, while Curious Theatre stages “Gloria” by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins. Both playwrights are award-winning, highly skilled, prolific black writers who have Julliard connections and a number of recent plays produced.
Regional premieres, both plays address social issues and are very much worth a visit — and contemplation afterwards. (Be warned: guns appear in both ...)
• “Gloria” opens in a competitive magazine publishing office, where four desks are occupied by Dean, Kendra, Ani and Miles — the intern who is about to leave. Snarky conversation ensues as competitive writers talk shop and gossip. It seems that Gloria, who also works in this office, had a party last weekend and Dean was the only one who showed up.
Director Chip Walton and associate director Jada Suzanne Dixon have worked with a skilled cast to look at the range of personalities in each of three acts (most play several parts) and the range of possible responses to a tragedy. Of course, writing a book about what happened is an expected outcome.
Several of these folks are in that process. Is it OK to profit from a tragedy? Who will get published first? How do you deal with a traumatic event?
Desiree Mee Jung plays the harsh, super-competitive Kendra in Act 1 and the boss, Jenna, in Act 2, while Brian Landis Folkins, the fact checke/boss in Act 1, becomes the newly hired low-level employee later — he stands out in both situations.
Candace Joyce plays editor Nan in Act 2 after starting out as conflicted Gloria. Brian Kusic (Dean/Devin) is argumentative and hung over, but draws one’s sympathy for his frustration. He voices opinions that lead us along in forming judgments ... Rakeem Lawrence, who plays Miles the intern at first and a Starbucks guy in Act 2, progresses to VP Rashaad in a TV/film studio in Act 3, when the story, of course, goes to film. Sydnee Fullmer plays Ani/Sasha/Callie — all more likable characters ...
Kusic commented that the playwright was specific in saying which characters were to be played by the same actor. The audience gets mini pictures of today’s society — none especially inviting.
A cynical look at a segment of society? Yes, but so very well-written and acted. Kusic called “Gloria” a “modern masterpiece” in the talk-back session that followed. There was general agreement that there was no one answer to the issues the play raises ... Kusic also commented on the especially well-put stage directions that were included in the script ... and added “it’s kind of wonderful being in a play that’s not about love or rich people.”
● After one is seated at the Aurora Fox, for “Hooded or Being Black for Dummies,” a cocky, funny Officer Borzoi (Laurence Anthony Curry) struts onstage and warns the audience he’s keeping an eye on them ... then we meet two teenage guys in a jail cell — one stretched out face down — “Trayvonning,” Marquis calls it. Marquis (A.J. Voliton) is an uptight prep school type, adopted by a white family, and Tru (Randy Chalmers) is a streetwise Baltimore kid, with very special red sneakers, who says he “was arrested for being black in the wrong place at the wrong time.” A familiar tale, unfortunately ... Marquis’ fierce white lawyer/mother Debra (Jacqueline Garcia, who also plays schoolgirl Prairie) soon appears to bail them out.
They talk through some time at Marquis’ home, at the prep school, dealing with cheerleader-type girls: Meadow (Tara Kelso), Clementine (Adeline Mann), and not-so-pleasant guys Hunter (John Hauser) and Fielder (Drew Hirschboeck) ...
Well-known Denver actress Betty Hart is director for this well-crafted play — and will play the lead in “Caroline, or Change” this spring at Aurora Fox.
Tru determines to write a guide for Marquis that will teach him how to be black — “you talk like a white person,” he tells Marquis. And he follows with instructions on posture, speech and attitude as situations arise. Funny and sad at the same time, with solid acting from beginning to end.
Marquis is interested in fellow student Clementine and romance enters the picture. Dialogue is especially well-written as this story develops and the boys become friends.
Hart says in her Director’s notes: “I invite you to lean in, laugh, love and embrace that which is uncomfortable...”
New artistic director Helen R. Murray has selected an interesting series of plays for her first season at the Aurora Fox. We look forward to returning.
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