Sunday, February 17, 2008

I saw a great Broadway play last weekend: Passing Strange

Passing Strange is a coming of age story, following a young man on a quest for something called “the real.” The journey carries him across Europe as he puts emotional and physical distance between his roots as a middle –class African-American youth in Los Angeles. I really enjoyed this show. It was fun, creative, and, unlike so many musicals on Broadway, actually had some substance behind it.

The show’s primary marketing image is a silhouette of the narrator, Stew, and recalls B.B. King to me. I thought this would be a blues show. But the cast (six actors, a band of four, and Stew himself) infused the show with a vibrant energy--a real pleasure to watch. By the end of Act I, I was convinced Passing Strange had the artistic strength to capture audiences looking for the next RENT.

The second act is also strong. Yet towards the end, the vivid and rich tapestry brought forth by the supporting characters falls away, leaving in its wake something more introspective. This worked, driving the core themes of self-discovery to the fore, but I found myself yearning for something slightly different. It’s as if Passing Strange “passed” on the opportunity to become a complete ensemble piece. But that’s okay, the work still resonates, and I wish it a successful run.
And that’s my two cents.

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