This inaugural production of the New Millennium Howard Players opens with a sizzling first scene featuring a delectable Lily played by Annette James being thoroughly courted by Sowande Tichawonna, who makes his moves like he’s got something to prove.
Just as Lily nearly melts in his ardent embrace, he commits the faux pas of calling her Frances, a woman who’s obviously so entrenched in his memory that he doesn’t even remember the transgression. As the story unfolds, we learn that, more than a former lover or divorced wife, Frances is embedded in his heart as his wife of fifteen years who recently died from cancer. The script by-passes any attempt to reflect on his memory of their relationship and focuses totally on Lily, the only one able to see Frances, Blithe Spirit style, thus lending the Love of Oscar to all kinds of mischief and mayhem.
Writer and director Hope Lynne Price-Lindsay admits that the piece was not quite ready for prime time, but when the Women’s Voices Theater Festival was compiling its offerings, she couldn’t resist submitting to be part of the historic event. For the Love of Oscar is light entertainment, but what it lacks the depth and polish, it makes up with plenty of heart, a share of chuckles and even a few zingers.
FOR THE LOVE OF OSCAR
Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival
October 28 – November 1
The New Millennium Howard Players
The Blackburn Center at Howard University
2397 6th Street NW
Washington, DC 20059
Details and Tickets
The scene changes are excruciatingly long as the crew moves a sofa and tables to reflect Lily’s apartment, Aunt Helen’s place, then Oscar’s kitchen, living room, and guest bedroom of his palatial abode. Although waiting through them is a chore, the student helpers are so earnest that they ease the suffering a bit.
What also helps is the funny prickly interchange between Lily and a belligerent Frances, played to the hilt by Monique Caldwell who does Not take kindly to being scooted to the After-life before she’s ready. Caldwell strides in wearing fluttering white attire and refuses to budge from her perch as the love of Oscar’s life. The dialog between the two touches on the difficulty of letting go and moving on, and the interchange is performed with such care that even the predictable ending is palatable.
Barbara El Wilson is an engaging Aunt Helen who helps Lily secure a nurse played by Antoinette Greene-Fisher, thickly accented and rooted in the traditions of the islands to ward off the spirits or “haints.” The three bumble around nervously chanting some silly jumbo that Frances later ridicules in a silly bit.
The two ensemble characters help clarify Lily’s life-experiences but then disappear, a reflection of their one-note linear simple function. The writing is promising, with work it could reach another level of accomplishment, and would be aided by more professional direction.
The professional company, New Millennium Howard Players, is steeped in the rich legacy of theater at Howard University that spans decades and generations. For the Love of Oscar is a promising beginning for the new company, with hopes for lots more.
For the Love of Oscar . Written and Directed by Hope Lynne Price-Lindsay . Featuring Annette James, Sowande Tichawonna, Monique Caldwell, Antoinette Greene-Fisher, Barbara El Wilson . Technical Director: India Soodoo . Props Mistress: Alexis Graves . Stage Manager: Phyllis Reed. Produced by the New Millennium Howard Players . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.