PARADISE BLUE by Stan Mazin (Guest Reviewer)
I fell in love with “Paradise Blue”, the production on the MainStage at the Geffen Playhouse, which I saw Friday, November 19th. This beautiful piece of theatre has everything going for it… Wonderful Set by Edward E. Haynes, jr., Great Lighting by Alan C. Edwards, Luscious Costumes by Wendell C. Carmichael, and some lovely Original Music by David “Preach” Balfour. Even the sound Designer, Jeff Gardner worked in some Thunder in the final act to emphasize dramatic moments, although I did hear some people say the actors were not loud enough to be heard in the back of the theatre. The Fight Direction was by Steve Rankin, and they even had an Intimacy Choreographer, Nedra Constance Gallegos. The Director Stori Ayers kept the action going and the play never got boring or ordinary. This interesting play was written by Dominique Morisseau, and every scene was packed with LIFE, drama, and even some humor. The play takes place in the late ’40s in the Black Bottom jazz section of Detroit, in a less than successful jazz club called Paradise. Each of the 5 characters in the piece is etched out brilliantly, and the actors are nothing but exquisite in their performances. Blue, the owner of the club is played by Wendell B. Franklin. Blue is probably the most troubled character in the play due to his background. His female interest is Pumpkin, innocently played by Shayna Small… a terrific performance who changes dramatically at the end of the play. Corn is played with great strength by John Earl Jelks, who is also in the jazz group with Blue and P-Sam, who is probably my favorite character if I had to choose one, brilliantly played by Alani Ilongwe. It was difficult to take my eyes off him. Finally, there is Silver, a ‘worldly’ woman who comes to stay in one of the rooms above the club. Tyla Abercrumbie plays this complicated woman to the hilt. All in all a fantastic cast well directed on this superb multi-level set. The story captured me from the first moment of the play. Although every seat was taken, we all felt completely safe since the playhouse did a complete screening so no one could enter without showing his or her proof of vaccination, and everyone except the actors had to keep their masks on. Again, this play is being performed at the Geffen Playhouse in the Gil Cates Theatre. I hope you love it as much as I did.