Unlike most twenty-somethings, I like a side of stellar theatre with my shots. Nameless Theater’s production of A’Leighsha C. Butler’s play Last Call opened in Adams Morgan last week to a full and vibrant house – so of course I was in the audience.
Directed by Nia M. Barge and set in a fictional bar called Mike’s Place, Last Call is about gentrification in Washington, DC. Bar owner Mike, his daughter Jocelyn, and other bar regulars are faced with the reality of a changing neighborhood. Incoming residents like Jenna, who unapologetically accuses new waiter Jordan of stealing her dog Petunia, seem to have little respect for the old neighborhood. But they feel as though the neighborhood should be for everyone.
The cast is comprised of inexperienced, but promising local performers Tia Dae, Sierra Edwards, Alexis Graves, Donta Hensley, Katherine Jessup, Adiyb Muhammad, Darren Rabinowitz, Samantha Sheahan, Dominique Antonio Spencer, and James Wingfield. Unfortunately, a sloppy script and second-rate performances make Last Call come across as self-indulgent. The script lacks subtlety and never fails to go for the obvious jokes.
As an avid supporter of arts accessibility, I had expected to stand full force behind Nameless. But getting new audiences is about more than bringing them to a bar. Let’s allow jeans, but let’s also provide our audiences with compelling, relevant, affordable, and –key word here- polished, theater. Too much of Last Call came across as gimmicky and not well thought-out.
Last performance: June 5, 7pm
Club Heaven and Hell
2327 18th St NW
1 hour, 30 minutes with 1 intermission
Details and Tickets
It was an enjoyable, albeit sometimes frustrating evening. If Nameless Theater is merely trying to provide its audience with “an unforgettable experience” as it claims, its Happy Hour Theater production is a success. Club Heaven and Hell is the last place you would expect to see a theatrical production, but the perfect place for Last Call. The set of “Mike’s Place” is one of the club’s actual bars. Located on 18th in Adams Morgan (a neighborhood heavily affected by gentrification), Club Heaven and Hell typically draws in visitors with live and loud music, DJs, and drink specials. And Last Call is just as “interactive” as the program explains. Several actors interact with the audience during intermission.
But I can’t help but feel that the scope of their vision to “reinvent theater” needs to be wider – draw in “non-traditional theater goers” and give them quality performances.
Nameless had a solid first try, but a bold and admirable vision can’t make up for a lack of polish and professionalism. The crew at Nameless obviously has the passion and heart essential to creating something great. It’s with a heavy heart that I say: I really wanted to like it, but I didn’t.
Last Call by A’Leighsha C. Butler . Directed by Nia M. Barge . Featuring Tia Dae, Sierra Edwards, Alexis Graves, Donta Hensley, Katherine Jessup, Adiyb Muhammad, Darren Rabinowitz, Samantha Sheahan, Dominique Antonio Spencer, and James Wingfield . . A Happy Hour Theater event . Produced by Nameless Theater . Reviewed by Rebecca Evans.