‘Transitioins’ In Three Acts

‘Transitions’ In Three Acts by Darlene Donloe | LA Watts Times: June 2010

Transitions are a natural flow of life.

You’re born, you grow, you go to school, you graduate, you get a job, you get married, you get divorced, you have children, you get sick, you get well, you die.

Whether transitions are brought on by external or internal forces, they’re nevertheless essential for one’s growth and development.

What’s important is how a person chooses to either resist change or embrace it.

There’s a little of one and a lot of the other happening in Kellie Roberts’ comedy/drama, aptly named “Transitions,” a stage production presented in three one-acts, playing at the Los Angeles Theatre Center through June 27.

In the first act, Kani (Kenyetta Lethridge), has withdrawn from society after the death of her fiancé, a man whose melodic singing voice she swears to her sister, Hope (Joyce Lee), is still audible even though he’s been dead for two years.

Through frustration, coupled with patience, Hope tries to bring her sister back from the brink through familial reassurances, care and love. She tries to distract her with wedding plans for her forthcoming marriage. But Kani, who is only reminded about the wedding she never had, is too mentally broken to be genuinely interested in her sister’s impending nuptials.

On the surface, this piece could easily be dismissed. It could be looked upon as just a one-act about a woman losing her mind and hearing voices. But, it’s so much more than that.

Upon closer examination, it effectively speaks not only to Kani’s inability to move on after an overwhelming and traumatic occurrence, but to the importance of allowing herself to grieve, then let go and let a higher power source move her through the pain.

And since death is a part of life, this is a lesson learned that can benefit all of humanity.

Both Lee and Lethridge give fine performances with their easy, rapid-fire repartee.

The second act stars Rosie Lee Hooks and Amentha Dymally as two septuagenarian sisters, Harriet and Alberta, respectively, whose relationship has been strained for about 30 years following a dispute over a cherished heirloom.

Harriet, who lives in a small Louisiana town is having heart trouble. When her sister, Alberta, comes from Detroit to pay a surprise visit, the tension and animosity can be cut with a knife. Harriet has never forgiven Alberta for “stealing” their mother’s gold picture frame from her home. To hear Alberta tell it, although their mother “bequeathed” the frame to Harriet, it belongs to both of them. So, she took if for safe-keeping.

Once the play begins to develop, we find out that the frame is but the tip of the iceberg. There is something more personal at the core of the sisters’ row. Hooks and Dymally are brilliant in this story of misunderstanding, betrayal, hate, but, most of all, love.

Hooks is masterful in her physical and verbal timing. The opening sequence, which has her walking into the room and then walking back to answer the front door at a literal snail’s pace, shows her courage in letting the scene develop and unfold without fear of filling the emptiness with unnecessary bits of business. Her if-looks-could-kill glances, deliciously dripping with loathing, plus her spot-on delivery, lift this production.

Dymally, who is equally impressive, matches Hooks’ intensity and comedic timing. Their verbal-sparring is vivid and rings authentic.

The one-two punch of Hooks and Dymally is a knock-out.

Act three opens with Elaine (Kellie Roberts) waking her husband, Dan (Lamont Thompson), to share her decision to change careers and become a photographer known for taking pictures of black women’s vaginas.

It’s an idea her husband can’t wrap his head around. At 38, Elaine is the same age her mother was when she died. Feeling her mother never fulfilled her full potential, Elaine is determined not to suffer the same fate.

As Elaine spins it, since there are a number of doctors who have never examined a black vagina, a number of black women who have never seen their own southern regions and since most black vaginas are only seen in porno movies, hers is a noble and worthy cause to show the true beauty of a black woman’s sex organ in a new light — so to speak. She is convinced it’s her calling to undertake this controversial subject matter, since it’s been tugging at her heart.

Dan, on the other hand is concerned with Elaine’s scattered logic and worries that their family, including their son, will be held to public ridicule.

This is a flirty, sexual romp with witty writing and naughty undertones.

Roberts and Thompson manage to get through some of the tongue-and-cheek dialogue unscathed. The clear message in this act is to follow your heart and disregard the naysayers.

Kudos to writer Roberts and director Dwain A. Perry, who, even though his stage space was limited, successfully gave each character their own personalities, while providing each act with the richness and fullness they deserved.

While each one-act has comedic insertions, the dramatic undercurrent in “Transitions” speaks volumes.

Some people react to transitions by kickin’ and screamin’. Some take them in stride. Others become comfortable through self-discovery by accepting the notion that transitions begin because something has ended. It’s all about living in the moment.

“Transitions” stars Rosie Lee Hooks, Amentha Dymally, Joyce Lee, Kenyetta Lethridge, Lamont Thompson, Kellie Roberts, Earl Buffington and Cydney Davis.

“Transitions” is produced by the Robey Theatre Co. in association with LATC, is written by Kellie Roberts, and directed by Dwain A. Perry.

The Los Angeles Theatre Center is at 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles

Showtime information: 8 p.m., Friday; 3 and 8 p.m., Saturday; 3 and 7 p.m., Sunday, through June 27;
$20 to $30; (213)
489-0994, ext. 107

On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent), “Transitions” gets an O (OK).