P. Nokio, written and directed by hip hop performing artist Psalmayene 24, hits a fun and groovy downbeat. Playing the main character, Psalmayene 24 takes on the stiff mannerisms of an artificial image plucked from an electronic game and given a body by the graffiti fairy, the irresistible Paige Hernandez, who makes dreams come true.
In this entertaining retelling, P. Nokio just wants to jam with cool kids and have fun instead of go to Old School. With a whimsical nod to Don Cornelius’ mantra to have “Peace, Love and Soul,” the script covers timeless concepts of responsibility, honesty, caring, delivered with rhymes, rap and an irrepressible beat. The music was recorded and designed by Nick Hernandez, making this a slamming family affair.
James J. Johnson plays Dad G. Petto with care and gentle grace, while Katy Carkuff and Jacob Yeh round out the talented cast.
From the opening scene, we learn that P. Nokio is challenged by water and short-circuits after he stands in the rain taking out the garbage, a task that real boys do. Careful to stay dry, he promises his Dad that he will go straight to Old School and takes off, only to be enticed by loud and raucous music from the forbidden path when he comes to a fork in the road, literally a tall silver, talking fork played by the appealing Katy Carkuff .
Despite his best intentions, P Nokio just can’t seem to stop his feet from be-bopping towards the promise of fun and good times so he ditches school and heads to the fun zone. By this time, P. Noko is such a sympathetic character, you can’t help but yearn for his safety, so you can feel the audience trying to will him away from the ominous lighting and from going in the wrong direction. Still, as we know, one must live and deal with the consequences of our decisions, so although our stomachs collectively lurched when P. Nokio turned towards the forbidden path, off we went with him to confront the treachery at hand.
Psalmayene 24’s text sparkles with creative flashes throughout, for example with the musical and dance distinctions between old school and current hip hop flava-filled moves with fellow- choreographer Paige Hernandez‘s whimsical and playful touches. One of the schemers who tries to trick P. out of his Dad’s hard-earned “life-credits” is named Madoff, and in the tale P. Nokio makes up, he conjures up Biggie Smalls and Tupac.
We all know what happens when P. tells lies, in this case, his nose grows longer on the large screen monitors for the world to see. When Father G Petto fails to create a new design in time, he is threatened to be shipped to the equivalent of Siberia, which is – gasp – DiscoLand. Once P. escapes the clutches of the Madoff duo and learns his lesson, he starts out on another journey to forbidden territory, this time to save his father from being sent into an electronic game. Only in the fullest expression of love, self- sacrifice and loyalty does P.Nokio have a chance to become a real boy, with valuable lessons learned along the way.
All of the design elements work together for a cohesive, well-turned effect, starting with the brilliant colorful two-tiered set by Ethan Sinnott, with bulb-lit doorways for entrances and exits. Perfectly timed sound effects and costumes by Nick Hernandez and Kendra Rai maintain the appeal, and the director’s great pacing keeps everything in flow. Innovative use of video and projections by Erik Trester pop the production into an ultra modern dimension.
Audience participation in shouting out the rhythmic refrains brings everybody into the well known story. Like the classic character, P. Nokio falls for trickery and has to learn his lessons to progress and go forward. Psalmayene 24 tags the story as one of redemption and love, all told with flair and a hip hop beat.
Written and directed by Psalmayene 24
Music by Nick “the 1da” Hernandez
Produced by Imagination Stage
Reviewed by Debbie MinterJackson
Running time: 1 hour and 30 minutes with one intermission