Theater Review: IN RESPONSE: Year of the Women

As part of its 25th anniversary season, LA’s premier African-American company, Towne Street Theatre, takes on just about every hot-button subject of 2018 with IN RESPONSE: Year of the Woman. Black Lives Matter? In there, front and center. Trump’s Tweets and Tinder dating? Check. Aging, adoption and abortion? Big time. And of course, this being The Year of the Woman, the #MeToo movement.

All these subjects receive thought-provoking treatment from a talented – and all-female – group of writers. There are laughs, but the stories also go deep. Of special note are the multi-woman performance pieces “I Am Here” (by Aja Houston) and “Me Too Because” (by Samantha Clay), which ends the show. They and many others reveal new angles on controversial issues.

Sonia Jackson and Melissa Kay Anderson as mother and daughter in “Anniversary.”

Interspersed with well-curated music and projected video, photos and animation are two dozen short plays and some scattered singing, spoken word poems and movement. The transitions between pieces sometimes mean a substantial shift in tone. “Midnight at La Cantrina” (by Madeline D. Puccioni; starring Jacqueline Castaneda and Shaquil Reeves) is the wrenching story of an illegal Mexican abortion. It’s followed by “Anniversary” (by Kay Phillips; starring Sonia Jackson and Melissa Kay Anderson), a humorous and bittersweet piece about a couple who hate each other and are thrown a surprise 25th anniversary party by their daughter.

Alyssa Barrett Jackson, Alisa Murray and Shannon Pedroza ponder pregnancy in “Pro or Con.”

Other standouts are Teressa Taylor as a cheating wife in “Vice,” and Joahn Webb lamenting aging in “Hebe” (both by Starina Johnson). In  “Mother’s Lament” (by Barbara White Morgan, starring Twon Pope and Veronica Thompson), a mother bemoans her son’s job as a conservative talk show host. In “Pro or Con” (by Samantha Clay; starring Alisa Murray, Shannon Pedroza and Alyssa Barrett Jackson), a woman’s inner voices argue about how she should handle her newly discovered pregnancy.

IN RESPONSE is a complex collage of voices yearning, and deserving, to be heard. The voices come to life through the sensitive direction of Towne Street Theatre co-founders Nancy Cheryll  Davis and Nancy Renee, as well as a cast adept at playing multiple roles. Response to IN RESPONSE has been so strong that it will return in the spring. But don’t wait! Head up Highland to the Stella Adler Theatre.

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Note: Only two performances remain of IN RESPONSE: Year of the Woman: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 28 at 3:00 p.m., the latter followed by a talkback session. The Stella Adler Theatre is at 6773 Hollywood Blvd. For tickets, visit www.tstyearofthewoman.eventbrite.com. For information on Towne Street’s 25th anniversary gala, to be held 3:30-7:00 p.m. on Nov. 10th, visit www.townestreetla.org or call (213) 712-6944.

IN RESPONSE: Year of the Woman
Towne Street Theatre (at the Stella Adler Theatre)
6773 Hollywood Blvd.
Sat., October 27, 8 p.m., and Sun., October 28, 3 p.m.
http://www.tstyearofthewoman.eventbrite.com

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About Laura Foti Cohen

Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and marketing consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.

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