Running:AMOK

I’ve been trying to decide what to name it. Help me out, sweetie, what do you think? I’m considering something classic, like “Portrait of the Artist as a Bewildered Mother-To-Be.” Or, “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Embryo.” As it stands, the name “Running:AMOK” implies a sort of chaos and intensity that doesn’t ever surface in this calm, confident musical performance piece. Sure, girls may be facing the biggest change possible – a whole new life force, growing deep inside – but what they go looking for here is something therapeutic. Forget the idea of running amok; what runs throughout is a sense of poetry, poise, and that special confidence born of camaraderie.

The show opens with a handful of introductory vignettes. We meet LeShell (Quineice), a successful club performer who argues into a cellphone with a friend who doubts her ability to hold up her career with a child in tow. Next is Nina (Teisha Marie), a successful designer of wedding gowns whose nausea interrupts her pitch during an important meeting. Then Camille (Sudani Scott), a successful novelist, questions whether she can be satisfied with the fact that her pregnancy is due to a short-term fling with a man now missing. Luckily for the final act, they’ve come together in a waiting room and are met by the mysterious and headstrong Mama Belle (Dionne), a successful singer who becomes a giver of wisdom (and wisecracks) to this troubled trio of new mothers.

You may have noticed the common adjective above.  The main characters, without exception, are successful modern women, strong and accomplished. And more power to them! It does mean, though, that the story’s slack. The sole plot point, if it’s even that, are the pregnancies themselves, and the ways in which our heroines study their issues and questions don’t ever rise above a laid-back, chatty tone. The focus is not, as with much theatre, on the exceptional circumstance. In fact it’s quite the opposite: a group acknowledgement of the universality of motherhood. And not only that, but a call to contemplate and support.

The lessons are nothing revolutionary. It’s not any worse being a mother, it’s just different. Your life and your art are one and the same, so harness your creativity and find strength in yourself! Your biggest gift is right before your eyes!

As you might imagine, nothing goes unsaid, and there ain’t a lick of subtext anywhere. But really, the script exists solely to thread together the songs, which it does with more than adequate grace. And the songs, composed by Gary Young and played prerecorded with a drum kit and keyboard, are slow-burning little gems: some smoky, some bluesy, some sparkly. In another venue it might have sounded tinny, but it’s a great fit for the Goethe Gallery. And even though a couple of the singers need to up their volume, everyone sings with purity and precision. In the songs, we truly find the soul of the show. “Here in me lies life!” sings Quineice with her hands on her belly. Amen to that.

Running:AMOK
Written and directed by Khadijah Ali-Coleman
Music by Gary Young
Produced by Liberated Muse Productions
Reviewed by Hunter Styles

Running Time: 75 minutes

Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.

Did you see the show?  What did you think?

Hunter Styles About Hunter Styles

Hunter Styles is the Artistic Director of Artists Bloc, a locally-focused workshop and presentation series for early-development performing arts pieces. He has written plays produced by Rorschach Theatre, Forum Theatre, Wayward Theatre, Flying V, and Grain of Sand. He received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for co-directing the Andy Warhol musical POP! at The Studio 2ndStage and has directed and assistant directed with Theater J, Rorschach Theatre, Synetic Theater, Doorway Arts Ensemble, Georgetown and American universities, and more. He is currently a staff member at Signature Theatre in Arlington and a company member of Factory 449. He has been writing for DC Theatre Scene since 2008 and for American Theatre magazine since 2012.

Comments

  1. Gary here.  I have to say that as much as I like the Goethe Institut venue the sound system setup seems like it’s meant more for talks or presentations than music.  Can’t quite get a good, crisp stereo sound from the house speakers (in the ceiling/walls).  And that’s based on listening to CDs other than the soundtrack with it.
    Of course, I would be very picky about that.  Maybe I can figure it out for the remaining shows.
    Still, thanks for the review in general and clarifying what you thought of the show and music.
     
    -Gary

  2. Thanks for your comments. I may have (unintentionally) underplayed how well I felt Gary Young’s sound and music worked in the piece. The composition was quite lovely and enjoyable — well composed and nicely mixed. What I really mean in the review is, what a blessing that the soundtrack doesn’t have to be played out of a boombox plugged in at the back of the house! I’ve seen it done in Fringe venues before 🙂 Continued best luck with the show! Hunter

  3. I enjoyed the play! The singers in the play are incredible, especially the singer Quineice, who you mentioned. Her voice is like no other. And she sings without a microphone! Thought the dialogue was, like you said, conversational, I think it is very important to pay attention. One of the things that the characters stress is the inexperience they all had, but, also, the feelings that come from not having control. You see movies or plays all the time that depict women as controlling and manipulative mothers, lovers, etc., but this play deals with being responsible for a child and feeling utterly helpless, and powerless. Isn’t being a mother supposed to be natural to women? This play says its not. I liked it and rate the music four stars!

  4. A Chatty Woman says:

    Thank you for the review. I actually wrote the play before I wrote most of the songs, so the script is actually just as vital as the songs though the songs, as in most musical theatre pieces, provide character insight as well. I did want to add that LeShell, not Camille, has the missing-in-action co-parent and Gary Young, the musician who composed the music to my lyrics, played a lot more instruments on the songs besides keyboards! He is a musical genius that a songwriter couldn’t be more thankful for. I don’t want to give the impression theatre- goers are going to hear cheap karaoke-like instrumentals.

    Thanks for acknowledging my brilliant cast and although the conversations about being fired for being pregnant or disenfranchised as a female creative were seen as being “chatty”, I do acknowledge in your review that, above all, you enjoyed yourself. Thanks for coming.

    Khadijah Ali-Coleman

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