"Life of an Addict” Needs Some Rehab

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I am always supportive of theatre and often encourage projects that are struggling to get its message out.  I know the work and expense that goes into financing a production can be all consuming.  Thus, I can appreciate the labor, and hopes and dreams involved in putting forth a production.  However, sometimes in their eagerness, producers kick the baby from the nest before it’s ready to fly.  And, in the case of “Life of An Addict,” sadly that is the case.

“Life of an Addict,” written and produced by Andrea Blaine, was presented at the Symphony Space, located on the corner of 95th Street and Broadway in Manhattan for one night only.  The storyline was about a religious woman named Angel (Shaenna Miller) and her addicted boyfriend Aaron (Eugene Daniels).  A devout woman, Angel is very involved in her church, as are her friends Mabel (Cecella McElveen) and Delise (Susu Bobien).  One day, her friend Eric, portrayed by Phillip Hatcher, introduces her to his cousin Aaron, whom he swears is a standup dude.  Judging on appearances alone he seems that way.  Selfish and conniving, Aaron has secrets.  He sees a good thing in Angel and gives her the romantic bum’s rush that leads to their living together and a hasty engagement. Addicted to love, Angel falls hard and does not see the warning signs.  Aaron is having problems finding work so Angel is paying the bills.  Aaron keeps talking love while disappearing for days at a time.  Suspicious, Angel finally finds out that Aaron is drug addicted and hangs out with unsavory characters.  He convinces Angel he is rehabilitating himself.  However, when he falls off the wagon he causes Angel’s life to spiral out of control.

The premise of the production is an important and valid one, thus the writing could use more flushing out.  However, where the play really needed work was in the set designing, costuming, sound and staging.  The way the set was designed needed rearranging.  For example, if there is a split stage featuring an interior set on one side and an exterior set on the other side, actors should not be walking across the stage from the interior set, stepping into the exterior set that represents outdoors.  But rather the actors should leave the apartment via the apartment door and move back stage into the exterior entrance that represents the street, so the locales are totally separate.  Also, there should be a walling constructed or a curtain that hides the stage hands and actors as they move around backstage, thus are invisible to the audience, which was not the case as structured.  The actresses looked like giants wearing those 6” heels that seemed uncomfortable (I noted they put on more sensible shoes in the latter part of the play).  And, I believe it was Sister Mabel who wore an ill fitting dress that seemed far too big for her, as were the braids that were so long they were falling into her face.  Now, this may seem rather picky to mention, but all of those things were distractions.  The audience becomes so focused on the big hair, the big dress, the big shoes, they miss the dialogue.  Also, there were periods where the sound fluctuated.  Therefore, while on occasion one actor’s mike was loud, the other actor’s mike was barely audible.

And last but not least, while the play was religiously influenced, the MC who kept coming out and making announcements during the play, did not need to keep asking the audience to stand up to hear the announcements.  This came off as if the play was a church setting and not a theatrical venue.  I must say that never in my theatre going history have I seen the audience being asked to stand to hear announcements.  The first time the audience accommodated but by the third request fewer people stood up as it seemed unnecessary, and it was.  So, the producers of the show should decide whether they are doing a church service or a theatrical production.

What can I say, the play is premature and requires more rehearsal time, a redesigned stage, better stage marking, costumes that do not encumber the actors, and all announcements made at the start of the show, announced one time only.  Otherwise, it just looks like a lot of egos out front trying to get noticed.  Of course, after the play, if the MC wants to introduce the show’s principles, please do.  That’s how it’s generally done.

The entire cast although adequate could use more rehearsal time.  Eugene Daniels, Phillip Hatcher and Lucienne Taylor gave noteworthy performances.  Additional cast include Darren Copeland and Felicia Williams.  The dancers Crystal Furvin, Myoung Jin Son, Crystal Glass Warner, and Isaac Demetrius Zellner gave good performances as drug addicts and via their dance number.  The step dancers were delightful during intermission.

The play itself has promise.  As stated, it needs work in the production end of it.  I wish the play luck and hope changes will be done to make it a more comprehensive and viable production the next time the play runs.

I know, this is a strange review!  And, I hate to be so blunt -- but when inviting critics to review a play, make certain the play is at its best and does not come off as amateur hour.  

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