MUST SEE: “A GUIDE FOR THE HOMESICK.” On the night I saw it at the Huntington Theatre’s second stage at the Calderwood, the audience wouldn’t stop clapping until this killer two-man cast came out to take another bow. Penned by Ken Urban and directed by Tony Award nominee Colman Domingo, this swift and scorching play stars McKinley Belcher III as the handsome and ebullient Roxbury-born Teddy, and Samuel H. Levine as the “overly-educated with a tinge of the pedantic” Harvardite from Newton, Jeremy.
These brilliant performances evoke a much larger, emotionally dynamic universe in which all the action springs from a chance encounter which explodes from a simple premise in one room. Teddy and Jeremy are travelers in Amsterdam, strangers who meet in the lobby of Teddy’s hotel and decide to spend one night together before moving on. The play ratchets up dramatically out of a perhaps too baldly mechanical premise, and the two suddenly find themselves enmeshed in each other’s parallel emotional and physical lives. Stalled on their respective journeys, the two “stay in this room” because they are resisting the truth; they can’t be honest. That will change in the course of one potent night.
These performances are staggeringly facile, each actor playing more than one part, their multiple characters instantly pivoting back and forth in time as the action swivels on its themes of guilt, redemption and identity. The play folds in and out on itself like an origami that finally blooms in a painful, passionate catharsis. Prepare to be moved. SEE A GUIDE FOR THE HOMESICK through November 4!
ALSO: Check out LOST TEMPO over at Boston PLAYWRIGHTS’ Theatre! The production stars a topnotch cast lead by Omar Robinson as jazz saxophonist Willie “Cool” Jones who’s hooked on free jazz and heroin. Cliff Odle’s play is dense with the jargon of jazz, and Diego Arciniegas immerses the actors and audience in “Mitzy’s Jazz Kitchen,” fronted by former lover “Babs” Rosenbaum (an earthy Evelyn Howe) with live musicians punctuating the agony and the ecstasy. Robinson doesn’t ever literally pick up an instrument, but I heard every note of this passionate nuanced performance.
The play spans mid 1950’s-60’s Harlem and takes awhile to heat up. Willie’s fighting addiction, while pushing the boundaries of traditional jazz to soar in the freer stratosphere of Miles and Ornette. He’s also pushing up against the group’s entertaining trumpet player Lane Blake; Kinson Theodoris is dynamic in the role. Lane’s got charisma but no new ideas according to Willie, and has a complicated romantic past with Willie’s sister Sheila, a powerful and elegant Miranda ADEkoje. The play finally gathers steam and builds to an emotional crescendo under the shadowy, golden light of a jazz club cooking up something new, for which Willie has paid the ultimate price of admission. Boston Playwrights’ Theatre through October 22.