Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tiger Tiger Not So Bright

No family is exempt from drama. It’s a universal occurrence.
Take the Morris family, circa 1950s, New Orleans. They got problems – real problems.
It all plays out in the drama, “Tiger Tiger Burning Bright,” written by Peter S. Feibleman and directed by Sam Nickens.
The show is currently playing through May 22, at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood.
The play explores what it means for a man and a family to live with the truth rather than what seems comfortable.
The conflict occurs when the dreams of some family members fail to be realized. The family consists of Mama (Regina Randolph), Clarence (Damien Burke), Dan (Richard John Reliford) and Cille (DaShawn Barnes).
They all live together in a no frills home. For unknown reasons, Mama has kept outside visitors at a distance, forbidding them to come past the home’s threshold. Mama is in mourning for her son, George, reported to have been killed during his military duty.
The home has become somewhat of a mystery to neighbors who are convinced something strange is going on inside.
Well, all of that changes after Mama decides to throw a party for her eldest son, Clarence, who supposedly works for the telegraph company – or does he?
The main antagonist in this story is Clarence who sneaks around climbing in and out of the windows trying his best to go undetected. But, just what is he hiding. He keeps money, but does it all come from his job?

His sister, Cille, who has a gift for seeing right to the heart of the matter – knows her brother is hiding something sinister, and after intense questioning, finally figures it out.
But Clarence is not the only one with secrets. So, too, does Mama, the old-fashioned matriarch of the family.
The cast of characters also includes Clarence’s younger brother Dan, who wants to marry Adelaide, a local hot mama who wants to settle down with Clarence. Then there are the neighbors, Dewey (Collin St. Dic), who has eyes for Cille and busybody/take-no-stuff Celeste (Janai Dionne).  There is also an unethical Deacon Sittre Morris (Carl Crudup).
The show introduces some interesting and intense familial and social scenarios. Unfortunately, the cast doesn’t demonstrate the breadth and depth of the subject matter, leaving ‘Tiger Tiger Burning Bright’ a little dim.
Damien Burke, who should be ‘burning bright’ in the role of Clarence, instead seems to be sleepwalking his way through the play – never changing his monotoned, ineffectual delivery. 
There is no chemistry between any of the family members, who could just as easily be strangers all inhabiting the same dwelling.

Kudos to Collin St. Dic, DeShawn Barnes and Janai Dionne who try to breathe life into their characters.
    The set is a bit awkward with the entrance to the house mounted at an uncomfortable angle. Chris Covics’ lights don’t set the mood or a tone for the production. And, if it were not for the description in the program, one would never know the show was set in New Orleans.
“Tiger Tiger Burning Bright,” is written by Feibleman, directed by Nickens and stars Randolph, Burke, Richard Reliford, Barnes, Barkia A. Croom, Carl Crudup, James E. Hurd, Jr., Dionne, St. Dic and Gilbert Hancock.
Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; 8 p.m. Thur-Sat., 3 p.m. Sun. through May 22; $10-$20; 323 960-7740 or

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Paula Patton and Laz Alonso Are “Jumping the Broom”

By Darlene Donloe

Historically, “Jumping the Broom” is an antebellum tradition in which slaves who wanted to marry, jumped the broom to signify their union.
Today, couples continue the ritual in deference to the ancestors.
The custom becomes a bone of contention in the new family comedy, “Jumping The Broom,” set to open nationwide May 6.
“Jumping the Broom,” tells the story of successful corporate lawyer Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton), who is about to marry Wall Streeter Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso). Sabrina comes from a well-to-do family, while Jason’s family is just everyday folks.  His mother, Pam (Loretta Devine) works in the Post Office and her mother, Claudine (Angela Bassett) is a socialite.
 I caught up with a glowing Patton (“Déjà Vu,” “Idlewild,” “Precious”) and a finely dressed Alonso (“Breakout Kings” “Avatar” “Stomp the Yard”) recently to talk about the film and their careers.

DD: What do you look for when deciding to do a film?
LA: I will say that typically, what I look for is does this character help push the story forward. Even if it’s one little moment plot-wise. It helps make the story memorable. Sometimes it may not be on the page, but as an actor it’s our duty to make it important.
DD: So did you get what you wanted out of this role?
LA: Now when it came to “Jumping the Broom,” I came to a point where I said I have to pump the brakes on the antagonist role. It’s time for me to play more heroic roles, otherwise I run the risk of creative things to do. You can only play it so many times before you run out of things to do.
DD: Are you very particular about the roles you take?
LA: As an actor it takes a lot of discipline to say no to a movie and money. I sat workless for eight months. I was going to see where my career was going. I was willing to wait.  I got offers. I turned them down. I would prefer to audition.
DD: Did you have a masterplan for your career?
LA: At times you have a plan. I’m very loose when it comes to having a master plan. I’m always open to a good character.  I want to do something you haven’t seen me do before.  I want people to see a new human being every time they see me onscreen, that’s my goal.    
DD: How do you know when you’ve gotten it right?
LA: first and foremost the director knows when you’ve gotten it right. You want to do it again even if you think you’ve gotten it right. The director says nope we got it. In “Jumping the Broom” I wsa standing by my car and had a complete breakdown.  The scene took so much out of me. I just was not looking to have to recreate that scene. We had to do it again and again.
DD: What did you expect and what did you get?
LA: I think this is the hardest question I’ve been asked.  Recognition from your industry and your peers - that is something that you really put a lot of weight on. You appreciate it. You realize what you’re surrounded by. There’s a lot of talent in this town. It’s not always going to happen, so don’t look for it.  What I got was, the reality is you’re not always going to get that recognition when you think you deserve it.

DD: Paula, did you have a master plan for your career?
PP: I did not at all. I came to this late in the game. I was working behind the camera. I worked at Discovery Health Channel. A boss allowed me to become a producer. Then the show ended. I don’t know why I didn’t want to find another job as a producer. I liked it, but didn’t love it. I didn’t have the passion. My friends were out there making short films and videos. I was procrastinating. I sat at my desk and asked myself, ‘what do I love to do since I was a little girl?’ I put on plays in my parents’ backyard. Always playing make believe. I started taking classes and got lucky. I was older when I started my career.
DD: How did you see your career unfolding? 
PP: I didn’t. I had a small part in “Hitch.” I thought I had arrived. I was flown first class. I remember auditioning for “Idlewild.” They auditioned everyone in Hollywood. I was hoping they would give me at least a small role. The director asked me to come back the next day in costume. I auditioned, about five times. It ended with a screen test with Andre [Benjamin].
DD: What did you expect from Hollywood and what did you get?
PP: That’s tough. I don’t know. When you start out, you think anything is possible. You realize that the people that succeed are hard workers and smart and resilient. It’s no mistake that you find a Tom Cruise or Angela Bassett and they become stars. They worked hard. It takes more than talent. It takes hard work, intelligence and tough skin.  Believe in yourself.
DD: How do you know when you’ve gotten it right?
PP: I know when I’ve got a scene right when I can’t remember what I did. When they yell cut and they say that was good, that’s when I know I’ve given myself over to the character.   In “Deja Vu,” I worked with my hero, Denzel [Washington]. He never did a scene the same way. He would fall down the rabbit hole. He was like a jazz musician - improvising and playing music. You need to do the work. Once they yell, action, let the feelings be. I feel like I got lost in that.
DD: How do you like to work?
PP: I trust a director, if he’s great and like a lot of rehearsal, I’m game. I’m adaptable. Everything is different.  Too much rehearsal stifles you.
DD: What is the hardest part about being a mom and an actress and wife?  How do you balance?
PP: Being so tired, the lack of sleep, the deprivation is on another level. But when you see your child, that’s the only person you’re wiling to do that for. My mantra is he comes first and everything else falls in line. Take it one day and hour at a time. I literally get paralyzed. Do the best you can and trust that God has your back and everything will fall in line.
“Jumping the Broom,” (TriStar Pictures) stars Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Loretta Devine, Meagan Good, Tasha Smith, Julie Bowen, DeRay Davis, Valarie Pettiford, Mike Epps, Pooch Hall, Romeo Miller, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Gary Dourdan.
A TriStar Pictures release and presentation, in association with Stage 6 Films, of a T.D. Jakes/Our Stories Films production. Produced by T.D. Jakes, Curtis Wallace, Tracey E. Edmonds, Elizabeth Hunter, Glendon Palmer, Michael Mahoney. Co-producer, Salim Akil. Directed by Salim Akil. Screenplay, Elizabeth Hunter, Arlene Gibbs.