Sunday, May 27, 2012

INSIDIOUS • The Black Rep

Ibn Shabazz's Insidious had its 2010 premiere at Road Less Traveled Productions in Buffalo, New York, and the Black Rep's production of this St. Louis premiere, the play's second mounting, is fearless.  Insidious takes an unblinking look at addiction, promiscuity and men on the "down low" -- men who engage in unprotected sex with other men, while maintaining relationships with girlfriends and wives.  Because of its adult language and themes, I would leave the kids at home for this one.

Dawud (Philip Dixon) and Kara (Jacqueline Thompson) are an attractive, frisky couple about to be married.  Kara is going over the details for the wedding when we learn that they are both in recovery.  Dawud, seven years clean, insists that he doesn't want the temptation of alcohol or drunken free-loaders at the reception, but Kara doesn't want to look cheap.  Once Kara leaves for work, Dawud leaves also, to come back home shortly afterwards with his hunky pick-up who calls himself Insidious (Nic Few).  After the foreplay of playstation and evasive small talk, they go into the bedroom to get down to business.  Here, Chris Pickart's scenic design and Mark Wilson's lighting design artfully render the pair obscured, and then in silhouette.  The two are nearly found out when Kara comes home unexpectedly to change clothes, but Dawud introduces Insidious as a new friend who has come over to play video games.  Once Kara goes back to work, Insidious isn't ready to leave after, and while going from needy to psychopathically defiant, he lets Dawud know in no uncertain terms that he will not go quietly. 

Dawud (Phillip Dixon) and Insidious (Nic Few)
Photo credit: Stewart Goldstein
Insidious lives up to his name with challenges to Dawud about his sexual preferences, threats of blackmail and suggestions that he might or might not have passed his HIV status onto Dawud, as well as Kara.  Once this seed is planted, along with the realization that Insidious has taken his keys, Dawud starts to freak out.  He is terrified at the possibility of having to tell his fiancée about his secrets.  A visit from Tajuan (Daniel Hodge), a mutual friend of Kara and Dawud's, heightens the tension as there is a flicker of recognition when he's introduced to Dawud's new ominous friend.

Chris (Ryan Cunningham) and Dawud (Phillip Dixon)
Photo credit: Stewart Goldstein
As his reality starts to close in, Dawud calls on his buddy Chris (SirGabe Ryan Cunningham), who is also in recovery.  Chris tries to keep Dawud on track, and although he provides some welcome comic relief as Dawud tells him his story, he tries to convince Dawud to come clean with Kara about his past, with little success.  As Dawud attempts to deal with Insidious and the potential consequences of his actions and his self-loathsome feelings about his own sexuality, all while trying to hang onto his sobriety, things play out in unexpected ways with heavy foreshadowing that manage to rise above being simply a public health service announcement about the dangers of unprotected sex. 

Insidious (Nic Few)
Photo credit: Stewart Goldstein
The language of Shabazz's play is coarse and authentic, and there are times when characters address the audience with slam poetry-like explanations of their motivations.  While these lyrical monologues tend to take you out of the story, they do provide clarifying looks into the experiences and perspectives of these characters.  The action drags a little in the second act after an abrupt first act close, but director Ron Himes admirably keeps the pace, and the stakes, high.  Few as the title character tempers his charm with his menace capably while Dixon's Dawud and Thompson as the unsuspecting wife-to-be make a genuine impression as a couple fighting to keep the havoc that Insidious has wreaked at bay.  Along with Cunningham as Dawud's best friend, Hodge provides a big slice of comic relief as the flamboyant Tajuan.  Together with the wonderfully realized set, lights, and costumes by Sarita Fellows, DJ Super Nova's sound design adds some nice touches throughout.

 Insidious (Nic Few), Tajuan (Daniel Hodges),
Dawud (Phillip Dixon), Chris (Ryan Cunningham)
and Kara (Jacqueline Thompson)
Photo credit: Stewart Goldstein
Check it out for an incredibly provocative potboiler that shines a light on rarely discussed compulsions and their resulting consequences.  It runs at the Grandel until June 24.


Written by Ibn Shabazz
Directed by Ron Himes
Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square
through June 24 | tickets: $35 - $47
Performances selected Wednesdays, Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm

SirGabe Ryan Cunningham (Chris), Philip Dixon (Dawud), Nic Few* Insidious), Daniel Hodge (Tajuan) and Jacqueline Thompson (Kara).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Scenic design by Chris Pickart; lighting design by Mark Wilson; costume design by Sarita Fellows; sound design by DJ Super Nova; fiber art by Carole Harris; stage manager, Tracy D. Holloway-Wiggins.


  1. bravo, Fam. tryna be in the house to support soon!

  2. Cool. Drop a line after you see it to tell us what you think!!

    Thanks for your comment.