Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall

Favorite Colors

By Scott R. Ritter
Directed by Ernest Abuba
Midtown International Theatre Festival/Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex Mainstage
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Charles Battersby

In Favorite Colors, five recently released former mental patients get together for a reunion party. For some crazy reason these marginally sane individuals think that the perfect way to celebrate their newfound sanity is by eating a huge tray of pot brownies. That heaping dose of THC and just a dash of thorazine make for one bizarre evening of theatre.

The story centers on Kulak (Adrienne Wheeler) and her boyfriend Grignard (Justin Okin), a dysfunctional couple but still the sanest of the bunch. It doesn't take too long to learn that Kulak is pregnant and that the hot-headed Grignard ain't exactly Ward Cleaver. They are eventually joined by Sally (Alesa B. Gantz), who's trying to put the fragments of her life back together after being institutionalized, and Fred (Phil Colosi), who's so screwed up he doesn't doesn't even have fragments anymore. Rounding out the pack is Radha (Farah Bala), whom Fred is convinced is an alien. Colosi as Fred is the standout here, adding a good deal of humor to the piece and giving a very convincing portrayal of a man who can barely remember his own name.

Playwright Scott R. Ritter captures the behavior and characteristics of stoned people very well. The characters launch into long rants about their place in the universe, become utterly fascinated with knocking over lines of dominoes, and one character insists that he can fly. In addition to being a playwright, Ritter is also a poet, and it shows in his characters' dialog, particularly when they launch into lengthy rants, some prompted by the brownies, others by insanity.

Director Ernest Abuba brought these characters to life and made them three-dimensional people, but he couldn't compensate for the script's lack of plot. Even though the characters are well-defined and the dialog is wonderfully poetic, the play doesn't have much of a story. The standard beginning, middle, and end are present but only in a bare-bones fashion. It's never established just why these characters were institutionalized in the first place. Conflict is in short supply as well. The fact that Kulak should leave Grignard is almost a given, right from the very first scene when Grignard's sadism becomes evident. However, the resolution of Kulak's story occurs without any obstacle to stand in her way, making her story a moot point. Although the play's tragic climax is adequately foreshadowed, when it comes, it is too abrupt. So abrupt, in fact, that if you blink, you could miss it entirely and wonder why one character suddenly disappears and everyone else is screaming.

The period costumes went a long way to establishing the play's time period in the '70s, and the slightly outdated clothes showed that these characters were still living in the '60s. The sound, by Elis C. Arroyo, was functional, but the music (much of it composed just for this show) stood out and helped capture the spirit of the characters and their generation. Alas, it takes more than capturing the spirit of a culture (or counter culture) to make a play.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby