West Adams Review – The Block Party War

Jenny Soo, Clayton Farris, Allison Blaize, and Andres M. Baggs in WEST ADAMS - Photo by Ed Krieger

Playwright Penelope Lowder developed WEST ADAMS while a member of SkyLAb, the development wing of the Skylight Theatre Company. A fierce peek at race, class, and the need to win at any cost, WEST ADAMS takes a darkly comic look at gentrification and all that means in today’s world. To quote director Michael A. Shepperd, “I needed to do this play to attach the social mores of where we are today and how so many `micro-aggressions’ infiltrate our lives daily as people of color.” The Skylight Theatre presents this world premiere play in 2020.

Andres M. Baggs – Photo by Ed Krieger

Michael Hills (Clayton Farris), wife Julie (Jenny Soo) and neighbors Edward Apaza (Andres M. Bagg) and wife Sarah (Allison Blaize) are excitedly rehearsing their patriotic musical number in hopes of acing the audition for the upcoming block party. At the same time, they spot a new family moving into the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood – an obviously well-to-do black family who just might raise their property values sky high. The Hill and Apaza families couldn’t be happier. But then the impossible happens. It seems that the new guys on the block have lots of pull in the right places – and auditions are cancelled in favor of their single-handedly lining up a popular group to entertain at the party. Suddenly the Hills and the Apazas see themselves as demoted from neighborhood leaders to also-rans. What to do to regain their earlier status and prestige?

Allison Blaize, Clayton Farris,, and Jenny Soo – Photo by Ed Krieger

WEST ADAMS rapidly morphs into an aggressive study on black vs. white, Americans vs. “others,” and – ultimately – right vs. wrong. Director Shepperd does a superb job of shifting gears as a fun-filled celebration turns into a life-and-death struggle with no holds barred. The talented cast eagerly enters into the battle with ferocious antagonism that rapidly devolves into an assaultive onslaught on the enemy. Attacking timely issues like race, class, gentrification, and immigration, WEST ADAMS is certainly a thought-provoking study of people caught in the cross-hairs.

Allison Blaize and Jenny Soo – Photo by Ed Krieger

Stephen Gifford’s set design strikes the right note: a middle class relatively mundane living/dining room where petty arguments and plotting can escalate. Mylette Nora’s costumes also fit the class structure of the principals. Donny Jackson’s lighting, Jesse Mandapat’s sound, and David Murakami’s projections round out a strong production team.

Andres M. Baggs and Clayton Farris – Photo by Ed Krieger

WEST ADAMS is a play which is designed to make the audience uncomfortable as a mean of drawing them into conflicts that may be happening all over the country right now. Lowder’s play will surely trigger conversation about the state of the current U.S. society. For those who enjoy studying the culture of today, WEST ADAMS fills the bill.

Jenny Soo, Allison Blaize, Andres M. Baggs, and Clayton Farris – Photo by Ed Krieger

WEST ADAMS runs through March 8, 2020, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Tickets are $20. For information and reservations, call 213-761-7061 or 866-811-4111 or go online.

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