GREG KALLERES' PLAY EARNS SOME BIG LAUGHS AND IS ALL ABOUT URBAN CONSUMERISM AND WHITE GUILT
The Role Players Ensemble brings some needed diversity to their Danville Village Theatre. Greg Kalleres’ HONKY is stirring up conversation on the East Bay Village stage only through February 17th. HONKY brings notions, fears, guilt and words about race into a dark and profane play about basketball shoes. Director Katja Rivera says “Honky, I have to admit I accepted with some trepidation. It's a searing comedy that shewers whiteness and racism, and I really didn’t want to screw it up. I also knew it would force me to confront my own racist tendencies.” Rivera brings a riveting cast of eight Bay Area players to create a number of roles to tell the story of a pair of Basketball shoes.
Kalleres, a former advertising writer, has his characters utter all manner of charged slang terms and epithets. His play has a powerful way of making us engage in that kind of self-examinatory over the words we use to talk about difference, racial and urban style. When a young African-American is shot for a pair of basketball shoes, sales of the shoes to white teens skyrocket. This results in a decision by marketing head Davis Tallison played by the dapper Micah Watterson to begin advertising the Sky Max 16 shoes to white youth. The urban shoe designer Thomas Hodge played by the terrific local favorite Khary Moye, wants the shoe “Sky Max” for “my people.”
The two act, satire, hits the stage in sketch-like scenes. It uses those trending athletic shoes as a theme point to look at consumerism, racial politics and matters of language in our supposedly more enlightened age. The ensemble includes Craig Eychner playing Dr. Driscoll and a variety of other characters like Abraham Lincoln. The accomplished Michael L Grayson and Terrance Smith brilliantly filling in the roles of black kids on the subway, Frederick Douglass, and other dark comedic inserts. Director Rivera kept the pace fast and clever set with strategic dance moves choreographed by Elena Wright. The cast made each character real and vulnerable with great comedic timing and urban composure while vexing white guilt during the inappropriately funny scenes.
The white guilt of ad writer Peter, played by the keen Justin Hernandez, is full of awkward pain. The ad man Peter considers himself responsible for the death. To his surprise his new therapist is a black woman named Emilia played by the confident Miia Ashley. Peter’s fiancée Andie, played the splendid Emily Keyishian, censors nothing that she says and just wants to feel something. Andie appears to be a rich white girl who is ignorant; she just does not feel that white guilt. A chance meeting between Thomas and Andie bring the two together and make Thomas rethink his black guilt. Peter’s guilt spirals out of control and Davis soon finds himself out of a job. He does not have a free pass to say certain things. The story comes to a bizarre outcome when Dr. Driscoll shows up to cure racism and I won’t reveal that prize.
The cast is superb, and keeps the script with all its madness and confusing possibilities and gives us characters who sound all too familiar. Set designer and expert carpenter Robert Bo Golden give the jittery, gritty feel of the city yet adds a cartoon edge by the outline on each of the settings. It reminded me of the many “You are a Good Man Charlie Brown” sets I have seen. The lighting by John Dunn was a bit more cartoonish for these dark topics, but I liked the back light Cityscape. Props by the accomplished Lisa Danz included the beautiful basketball shoes and plenty of bar scene glasses and cell phones. The hip hop subtext and chorus of urban sounds were created by sound designer Xanahary Xoya Xoobotu.
The humor in HONKY is a lot like the pricey basketball shoes; they both come in very aggressive colors. Kalleres gives us something to think about including guilt-ridden stereotypes and racial slurs that will make you think. In the end, you’ll find yourself with a prescription for discussion and laughter that will cure any of your racial indiscretions with only the usual side effects.
Role Players Ensemble presents
by Greg Kalleres
Directed by Katja Rivera
Artistic Director: Eric Fraisher Hayes
MUST CLOSE Feb17, 2019
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 2 pm
The Village Theatre
233 Front Street, Danville, CA 94526
2 hours One intermission
Tickets: $20-$35; online at www.RolePlayersEnsemble.com
at Danville Community Center
or call (925) 314-3400.
Featuring Miia Ashley (“Emilia Hodge"), Craig Eychner ("Dr. Driscoll", “Abe Lincoln”, “Wilson”), Michael Grayson ("Kid 2”), Justin Hernandez ("Peter Trammel"), Emily Keyishian ("Andie Chastain"), Khary Moye ("Thomas Hodge"), Terrance Smith ("Kid 1", “Frederick Douglass”), Micah Watterson ("Davis Tallison "), Lisa Danz (Properties), Robert "Bo" Golden (Set Design/Construction), Zanahary Vida Leila (Lexi LaCroix) (Sound), Kathleen Qiu (Costumes), Jessica Riley (Production/Stage Manager).