Ah, to be thirteen again- the age full of equal parts hubris and insecurity. Such are the epic struggles of two teenage would-be rappers in this funny new piece by Emma Choi, herself a senior at George C Marshall High School. But don’t let the playwright’s youth dissuade you from coming to see this show; there are some insights in this often bizarre and inventive coming of age story.
Jared-J-Swizzle (Scott Duvall) and his best bro Daniel-D-Man (Alex Law) are two best friends on the cusp of adulthood- Daniel’s already had his Bar Mitzvah, and Jared’s is just around the corner. They spend most of their time in the basement of Jared’s house, avoiding both Jared’s meddlesome mother and the actual work of writing rap, instead dreaming of the merch they’ll sell when rich and famous.
As Fringe sets go, (no designer given) a spare but effective use of the obligatory black futon sofa and various bins labeled ‘Jared’s Crap” and “Axel Body Spray and Ass’t Colognes’ gave a nice sense of an overcrowded teenager’s den.
J-Swizzle’s (& D-Man’s Epic Awesome Swaggy Broventure for Sweet Rhymes
closes July 23, 2017
A flat screen broadened the horizon further, and projections by Jon Roberts and a mini movie by Jeffrey LeLoup gave some tongue in cheek giggles to the boys’ struggles.
As Sally Bridgefield, a former elementary school bully who later turns out to be more than just a high school temptress, Maggie Brown doesn’t quite have her verve down pat, and Jay T Stein as Jewish Jesus/Lamination Machine/Rap God, seemed to be both distressingly nervous and unsure of his lines, a poor combination given his many humorously written lines. But Jewish Jesus’ entrance, on a folding bicycle, and his subsequent slow folding up of his heavenly conveyance before pronouncing his miracle on offer, was a lovely gem of stage business.
The writing is good, but the overall level of acting is unfortunately not often up to the task. That’s often the case in many hastily rehearsed Fringe pieces, but small and constant irritations, such as actor Alex Lews’ constant smirking at his own funny lines, were nettlesome after repeated viewing. Director Haley Murphy seems better at home at directing stage business rather than stage actors. And the rap itself, arriving late in the show, isn’t spectacular, to be honest- but then, these super-white Jewish teenagers are wanna-bes and not yet actual rappers- that’s kinda the whole point.
That’s not to say we didn’t laugh, though- we certainly did- much of the writing is well able to shine through these imperfections.
Yes, it’s a flawed show, but nevertheless an enjoyable one, and written by a playwright to look for in future. And given the head start she’s already gotten, perhaps one should go just to be able to boast “I saw Emma Choi’s work before she was famous!”
J-Swizzle’s (& D-Man’s Epic Awesome Swaggy Broventure for Sweet Rhymes by Emma Choi . Director: Haley Murphy . Cast: Scott Duvall as J-Swizzle; Alex Lews as D-Man; Maggie Brown as Sally Bridgefield; Jay T Stein as Jewish Jesus/Lamination Machine/Rap God . Producer/Stage Manager: Jessie Roberts . Dramaturg: Sylvia Korman . Sound/Projection Designer: Jon Roberts . Video Designer: Jeffrey LeLoup . Lighting Designer/Fight Choreographer:Ian Claar . Costume Designer: Judy Whelihan . Crew: Rob Culbertson . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.