If the full lobby at Studio Theatre, or the line that wrapped around said full lobby to sign a standby list for tickets was going to be any indication of how good the show Paige in Full would be, my job as a reviewer would be easy.
Paige Hernandez is a performer with a reputation, resume, and fan base that is unrivaled by most. A native of Baltimore, MD, she blends dance, monologue, and poetry over the backdrop of hip hop and R&B classics. The hip hop music that Paige’s story is set to becomes a character, invoking call and response from the audience at one point and a sense of solitary and quiet contemplation at other points.
Paige in Full, [the title is a play on hip hop classic “Paid in Full”] tells Paige’s autobiographical story from pre-conception to present day in a one hour show that grabs the audience by the throat and doesn’t let them go. Part comedy, part pain, and part retrospective on growing up in Baltimore in the late 80’s and early 90’s, we experience Paige trying desperately to fit in, before finding her voice, accepting herself and becoming one of the most fascinating artists to watch of this generation.
Her tale winds its way through elementary school, telling the story of the pretty b-girl with a mind and heart on hip hop from age 8, who memorized dance routines of the fly girls from “In Living Color.” Somewhere along the way we snake through the streets of Baltimore and DC, by extension learning what each place has meant to Paige. We explore love and its changing concept from sweet, to abusive, to the most coveted of them all, “real love”. The story line is enhanced by definitions of hip hop terminology such as break, chopped and screwed and others to give depth to the transitions in her life.
We watch as Paige expresses our deep rooted sorrow over loosing so many of our hip hop heroes, her dance cries for Tupac, Biggie, Big Pun, Guru, J Dilla, and Michael Jackson among others.
This is perhaps the most endearing, and inspiring thing about Paige in Full; somehow over the course of one hour, many monologues, much profound turntablism provided by Nick the 1da, and many poems and dances, we find that Paige in Full is the story of any true hip hop lover, and her mix tape is the soundtrack to our lives.