Tuesday, April 30, 2013

SMASH/HIT! • The Black Rep

Receiving its world premiere at the Black Rep, Smash/Hit!, written by Steve Broadnax and Michael S. Bordner, centers around "Money" (Ronald L. Conner), and his aspirations of making it big on the hip-hop scene along with his childhood friend, Chance (Matthew Galbreath).  The play also touches on other subjects -- the plight of poverty, post-traumatic stress disorder, father/son dynamics and homophobia in the black community.  It tries to cover a lot of ground.  Maybe too much.

Matthew Galbreath (Chance),
Ronald L. Conner (Money)
and DJ Super Nova (DJ).
Photo credit: Stewart Goldstein
"No Plan B", the name of Money and Chance's hip-hop duo, begin by loosening up the crowd with a little rap music.  After learning that his girlfriend, Joi (FeliceSkye) is pregnant, Money is more determined than ever to be successful and does what he can to make some quick money.  He refuses to abandon his girlfriend and baby, the way he was abandoned by his own father.

He decides to join the army.  At least that way he'll be getting paid more than minimum wage, as opposed to working at some fast-food joint, which he's too proud to do.  Chance goes it alone while Money is off at service, and with some help from Good Boy, (Justin Ivan Brown), a local radio promoter, Chance starts to gain a little ground.  When Money returns from Iraq, Chance wants them to pick up where they left off, but Money has a hard time letting go of the horrors he experienced during his military service.

Although this play has had a couple of years being workshopped, it could still stand a little more fine-tuning.  In addition to not really following up on subjects that it introduces, the explanations that do happen, happen way too late, or not at all.

Feliceskye (Joi) and Ronald L. Conner (Money).
Photo credit: Stewart Goldstein
Under the direction of Ron Himes, the performances were very good, when the actors weren't being hampered by the script.  Ronald L. Conner as Money shows a range of emotions during the course of the play, and even though Galbreath's Chance is sometimes reduced to asking Money if, "everything is alright" early on -- a lot, he does a fine job with his character, especially when more about him is revealed in the second act.  Still, Conner and Galbreath are both pretty good rappers!  They do a great job with the original music featured in the play.  Brown as Good Boy and FeliceSkye as Joi  turn in solid performances, and D.J. Super Nova also does a nice job punctuating the narrative with his hip-hop beats from the upper level of the set, courtesy of scenic designer Jim Burwinkel.  David Warfel is responsible for the lights, Robin Weatherall for the sound, and Lou Bird for the costumes.

Justin Ivan Brown (Good Boy)
and Matthew Galbreath (Chance).
Photo credit: Stewart Goldstein
There is some potentially good stuff here no doubt, but the focus could be narrowed with more loose ends tied up.  Smash/Hit! is playing at the Black Rep till the 18th.


Written by Steve Broadnax and Michael S. Bordner
Directed by Ron Himes
Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square
through May 18 | tickets: $20 - $47
Performances Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm

Matthew Galbreath (Chance) and Ronald L. Conner (Money).
Photo credit: Stewart Goldstein
Justin Ivan Brown (Good Boy), Ronald L. Conner* (Money), FeliceSkye (Joi), Matthew Galbreath (Chance) and D.J. Super Nova (DJ).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Scenic design by Jim Burwinkel; lighting design by David Warfel; sound design by Robin Weatherall; costume design by Lou Bird; stage manager, Linda Kennedy.

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