Urban Transition: Loose Blossoms by Ron Milner
Urban' poses complex questions
July 18, 2003|
Philip Brandes; David C. Nichols; F. Kathleen Foley
The dream of upward mobility is a strong motivator to play by society's ethical and legal rules. But in times of economic hardship, that dream -- and the values it nurtures -- can prove all too precarious, as a struggling middle-class black family discovers in "Urban Transition: Loose Blossoms" at Leimert Park's 4305 Village Theatre.Ron Milner's thoughtful drama traces the crisis confronting Earl Carter (stage veteran Dick Anthony Williams), who's paid his dues and more to pull his family out of the slums. Comfortably resettled in a Midwestern city during the early 1990s, with one daughter in college and a son with a bright academic outlook, the future seems bright for Earl. But as the play opens, a back injury renders him unable to work, threatening the Carters' hard-won financial independence.
While Earl's patient, gutsy wife Cheryl (Jackee Harry) struggles to pay the "bills piling up like snow," their 17-year-old son E.J. (Cory Curtis) spots an easy fast-cash opportunity in the "soft stuff" at the periphery of the narcotics trade. Naturally, it's not long before E.J. graduates from pickups, packaging and deliveries to full-fledged drug dealing.
Though sketched in the broad strokes of a morality play, with its dramatic extremes of temptation and redemption, Milner's script employs some unexpected twists and insightful (though sometimes rambling) monologues to pose complex, troubling questions. Most disturbing is the ease with which E.J.'s new occupation is accepted.
Cheryl allows her outrage to be bought off with material wealth, but the charismatic Harry makes her lapse so understandably human that it's impossible to simply write her off. Eldest daughter Gail (Amber Kain) turns to Machiavelli to intellectually rationalize the situation.
Slow to recognize the painful truth, Earl's response is so full of hand-wringing and waffling it undermines the moral authority he tries to assert. That task falls to Uncle Bert (Art Evans), a tough but good-hearted cop.
Director Woodie King Jr. draws some powerful performances, especially from the conflicted Curtis and a smoldering Eddie W. Lewis III as E.J.'s best friend, who falls for the false trappings of the drug world. The chains may be gold, but they're still chains.
-- Philip Brandes
"Urban Transition: Loose Blossoms," 4305 Village Theatre, 4305 Degnan Blvd., Leimert Park. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends Aug. 31. $25. (323) 939-2438. Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes.
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Online Excerpt from LA Times