Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’ In the Blood brings the theatre world a look at the invisible people. We’ve all seen them, maybe a couple of us have given them some money, and maybe, even, if were very daring we spoke to them. These are the street people. Mz. Parks explores a fragment of their world.
Few theatres would chance producing a play loaded with profanity and filled with challenged people and some downright nasty people. GB Productions, know for giving new writing and acting talent their start, also likes the bring some very serious stories to their audiences.
In the Blood is not easy to watch. We meet Hester (Stephanie Jackson) and her kids: Jabber (Brian Burke) – a bit slow, Baby (Nathan Dean Snyder) – a toddler, Bully (Summer Golden) – an older child that occasionally terrorizes the others, Trouble (Chuck Hart) – another challenged child, and Beauty (Robin Dye) – a bit of a strutter. Being a street family, life is, at the very best, cruel.
Hester somehow manages to feed her brood, but often goes without herself. Jackson, in her best portrayal to date, is excellent. It is impossible not to have compassion for her plight. Each of the actors playing the kids represents each child in some very interesting renditions. The play, though, requires each of them to play an additional role. It is here where the supporting cast shines.
Snyder’s additional character is the Reverend D, an egocentric preacher of the gospel according to the Reverend D. He has had relationships with Hester, requiring her to facilitate a pressing need on him. He is absolutely everything the church does not want. Snyder is very powerful.
Burke returns as Chilli, Jabber’s father. He, too, is a scumbag of the first order. In his roles, the actor gives a good contrast. Golden is also a welfare lady who is compassionate but secure in her social superiority. Even a welfare lady knows how to exploit her charges. She also has a further dark side.
Hart seems to attempt to be a somewhat understanding man of medicine. He talks a convincing story. But one wonders when he carries an eye chart with one word in ever diminishing sizes. The word . . . SPAY. Dye absolutely blossoms as the somewhat stereotypical prostitute who has even gone in for some girl-on-girl stuff for live audiences.
Thus, each of the characters was flawed. Members of Hester’s support group had their dark side and their weaknesses. Her children, though loving, had problems. Hester was always in search of love . . . five children with five different men. While she was streetwise, she was also illiterate.
Director Jeff Bushnell took an extremely tough script and gave his audiences a good production. While there are a few uneven moments and slow pacing, I recommend In the Blood. The acting is the best I’ve seen at this theatre. The play opens up a world most of us have never seen. It is a drama you may not see anywhere else in San Diego, so this is your one chance.
Caution: Adult action and language
Stephanie Jackson, Brian Burke, Nathan Dean Snyder, Summer Golden, Chuck Hart, Robin Dye
Sets/Lighting/Tech Jeff Bushnell, Sound Design Brian Burke & Stephanie Jackson
Author: Suzan-Lori Parks
Director: Jeff Bushnell
Date Reviewed: June 6, 2008
Dates: Friday & Saturday, thru June 28, 2008
Running Time: 124 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Caution Guidance: Adult language and situations
North Park Vaudeville
2031 El Cajon Blvd
San Diego, CA
Box Office Phone: 619 647-4958