Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Spook Night: Brilliance or Buffoonery?

To a youngster Spook Night may sound like a special Halloween event complete with ghostly costumes and decorative skeletons. But to those of us a little older and wiser, we understand how being called a "spook" haunted African-Americans for generations. So what then is a Spook Night? And how does it relate to the world of stand up comedy? In a new play of the same name, you not only learn the answer but laugh until you cry in the process.

Written and directed by comedy writer and producer, T. Faye Griffin, Spook Night, explores the thin line between what's funny and what's not in the world of black stand up comedy. And to give us a better understanding of how the debate began Griffin took us to black comedy of the past, from 1910's minstrel stage to 1994's Los Angeles comedy club scene.

The majority of the story takes place at a comedy club that's almost as dilapidated as it owner, the cranky yet good natured Fletch (Alan Charof). His dutiful daughter Nadine (Lauren Schnipper) helps run the place. The only profitable show of the week is Spook Night, the night when black comics take center stage. Backstage we are introduced to an assortment of comedians representing the good, the bad, and the ugly in stand up comedy. Before they hit the stage, characters Old Dog (Bill Lee Brown) and Smokey Mo (Mike Estime) school Andy Fields (Steve Olson)--a quirky small town white boy at the right place at the wrong time--on what black comedy is all about. His lessons turn serious when one fellow comic is cut from an important night's line-up.

Having shared her comedic talents to the Emmy Award-winning, In Living Color, Steve Harvey's Big Time, Roseanne Barr's The Domestic Goddess Hour, and BET's Coming to the Stage, it's obvious Griffin is an expert on what makes people laugh. But what led her to write such an insightful and well-rounded play comes from an experience that's not so funny.

In regards to this play, I say brilliance!

Opening night several well known comedians including Sherri Shepard, Rodney Perry, Kym Whitley, and Tommy Ford came out to enjoy the show. I sat two rows behind Ford. The sound of his familiar laugh made famous on the sitcom, Martin, was almost as funny as the characters' jokes themselves. Even the proper little white ladies sitting next to me were rolling in their seats with laughter. Which goes to prove good comedy is universal and so is this play in its appeal. And while you're laughing you might even learn something.

Spook Night will continue running at the Lillian Theater in Hollywood until September 30th. For ticket information click here to visit the website and learn more about the great cast and producers, H.I.S. Life Productions and Page to Stage Entertainment.

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