GJ Willis' Art Notes

The Adventures and Misadventures of a Neer Do Well Artist Living in Baltimore.

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Location: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

I am a visual artist and writer living in Baltimore. I don't have any artist friends. Frankly, artists scare me, there so darn flaky. The above picture is either of me or proof that I'm a pretty decent artist. My goal is to be a self sufficient artist, whereas I wouldn't have to do something else in the day in order to eke out an existence. I also like to attend various cultural events around town. I go to plays, the symphony, etc. Also, I have Asperger's Syndrome. I found this out recently and it has explained a heck of a lot as to why I am as I am.

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Saturday, December 06, 2003

The above picture is a painting I did called Trixie and Fifi Go Shopping. It sold a while ago to this woman who collects my paintings in New York. So here’s my review of a.m. Sunday by Jerome Hairston currently running at Center Stage theater in Baltimore, November 13, 2003 to December 14, 2003. The play was directed by Marion McClinton.

a.m. Sunday

THE CAST (in order of speaking)

Massimo Angelo Delogo, Jr. or Sylk

Ray Anthony Thomas

Johanna Day

JD Williams

Robyn Simpson

First off I was on time for the play no rushing or mad dash for my seat. I think having a Saturday matinee subscription is working out well for me. Again, I sat next to the tiny elderly jerri curled lady with the oxygen tank. I guess she’ll be my seat mate for the entire season. She seems nice she was talking to a lady who sat in the row in front of us. She seems proud that her grand daughter is going to college next year.

I should say right now that I went into seeing this play without any prior knowledge about it other than it was going to be about an interracial family. I also knew going in that it was written by Jerome Hairston, who is a promising young African American playwright who looks like Tiger Woods long lost twin brother.

One thing I can say about the actors in the play is that there were no cringe worthy performances. However, the stand out performer in the play was Ray Anthony Thomas’ portrayal of R.P.. For some odd reason he kind of reminded me of James, the family patriarch on the 70’s sitcom, Good Times. Thomas’ performance alone gave focus to the play. Thomas plays a strong black man who has been married to a white woman for the past sixteen years. It is hinted in the play that he is having an affair thus the marriage is crumbling. My favorite scene with him in it is when he’s at the kitchen table trying to fix the telephone.

Johanna Day’s portrayal of Helen was good. She played the long suffering wife of R.P. and the mother of their two sons Denny and Jay. She is the one person in the family that knows what is going on within it. She even knows of her husbands infidelity. Which of course R.P. denies. My favorite scenes that she’s in is when she’s gathering the photo’s to show to her mother and when she gets back from her mother’s house.

JD Williams as Jay was by far the one person in the play who was the most recognizable. He is currently in his third season as Bodie on HBO’s The Wire. He gave a great realistic performance. However, I find it hard to believe that a 15 year old black teenager would be shocked to find out that behind his back at school some kids call him a nigger. I mean come on! How naive can a person be. What, all these years has he thought he’s been white? Give me a break! My favorite scenes with him in it is when he’s at the bus stop with his kid brother Denny and the scene in the woods with his white girlfriend Lorie this is where he tells her that he’s heard the kids at school calling him nigger behind his back. The scene is very dramatic yet at the same time it’s a what planet is this kid living on moment??

It should be noted that the role of Denny is played by two actors Massimo Angelo Delogo, Jr. and a kid called Sylk. No first name just Sylk. I wonder if he’s a pretentious little brat to go around already at 12/13 calling himself Sylk. Anyway, it is a common practice when child actors are involved in a performance to divide the role. One actor works one day the other the next. I guess they have to do this because of child labor laws or something. The Denny for the production I saw was played by Delogo. He was eerie looking for me alone because he’s a dead ringer for my nephew, Little David, same face, size, coloring, accent, and everything. I almost wanted to call up my sister and ask where was Little David? Despite my initial shock Delogo did a great job playing Denny, the youngest member of the family. My favorite scene with him in it was when he’s at the bus stop with Jay and he’s describing being teased at school for being slow. I almost felt like crying.

I couldn't quiet understand the character Lorie as played by Robyn Simpson. Lorie was Jay’s girlfriend. It was hard to figure out if she was being secretive about the relationship or was out and proud about it. It just felt iffy. Simpson did a good job. I just couldn't quiet figure out Lorie. This I feel is a fault of the script not the actor. My favorite scene with her in it was the one where she’s in the woods with Jay and proudly proclaims, “I suck nigger dick!” This I must admit is a line I’d never thought I’d ever hear coming from the stage at Baltimore’s prestigious Center Stage.

Overall, I have to say that I wasn't that taken with the play it had promise. It felt like it was over before it ever had the chance to begin. The play was very short with no intermission. I believe it ran for just an hour.

I never really felt drawn in to the action. I didn't feel a connection with the characters like you do in an August Wilson play. I guess I just wanted it to be more. I didn't want to relive the train wreck that was Kia Corthron’s, Splash Hatch on the E Going Down. a.m Sunday is no Splash Hatch on the E Going Down. Slash Hatch I feel was the worst black play I have ever witnessed. I wanted to go up on stage and bitch slap all the actors and who ever thought it was a good idea to put on that play. Everything about that play felt fake and contrived.

a.m Sunday is a much better play than Splash Hatch.
I just wish it had explored the characters motivations more. It felt sketchy and in need of being filled in. I wanted to know why the father after so many years was cheating on his wife. Was Lorie for or against her relationship with Jay? Does Jay live in a glass bubble? Why was the mother staying with the father despite his philandering? Was it to show her mother that interracial marriages last? Is Denny retarded or just overly sensitive? Why was he so tied with the family dog? Did the mother have a job?

Basically, I felt that I could write a better play about a dissolution of an interracial marriage. There were no real emotional moments nothing that made me cheer or cry except maybe the Denny character. The Denny character was just so pitiful I wanted to go onstage and give him a hug. The characters needed to be explored more. I wanted to know what made them tick. The play was a soap opera in need of an ending. In his defense the playwright Jerome Hairston is just 28 so he has plenty of time to write a more engaging great American play, a.m. Sunday is not it.

link | posted by gail at 10:55 AM | 0 comments

Friday, December 05, 2003

A lot has happened since I last posted. My company moved to a new location, I saw another play at Center Stage, and I now have almost all the Paul McGann Big Finish audio’s except Zagreus. The above picture is something I did a while back called, Foxy Momma Says Hello. I don't recall who I sold it to. It was either a collector in New York or the other one in North Carolina.

When the company moved to its new location of course our seating arrangement changed. I used to feel awake and energized in the morning with the row of people I sat by. Now it appears I’ve been moved to the morgue. There’s not a trace of fun or energy in the people I sit by now. They're very sedate. I don't know maybe I'll just have to get used to them.

Anyway, to the left of me is Li Jai whom we call Jade but it’s really pronounced Jay as pointed out by Melissa last year. I’ll describe Jade as 40something cheerful with a great fashion sense. I almost want to ask her to help me pick out clothes at the mall. I'm sure I'd look like a million bucks. The celebrity she most resembles is Rosalind Chao who played Keiko on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. To my right is Margaret a gray haired proud granny. The celebrity she most resembles is Olympia Dukakis with curly gray hair.

link | posted by gail at 3:38 PM | 0 comments

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