One of the more curious contradictions of Los Angeles is the comparative lack of viable theater options for Black audiences in this, the Mecca of film and television production.
The Black Arts Movement, a cultural offshoot of the Black Power Movement launched an uncharacteristically fertile period circa mid-20th century, but as the years passed many of the groups spawned during this period fell by the wayside.
Today, theatrical companies catering to African Americans are especially scarce, although a few intrepid organizations, including the Ebony Repertory Theatre, the Town Street Theatre, the Robey Theatre Company, and Unity Players Ensemble continue to survive.
That said, productions about the Black experience are especially prized, which brings us to "Love in a Day," which was mounted on July 29 at the prestigious Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood.
Using the foundation of three couples attending a relationship retreat held by a therapist and his assistant, playwright Darryl James offers a somber, yet occasionally humorous peek at the six people coming to terms with the task of meshing their aspirations and goals with those of their significant other. Along the way, they navigate through the myriad pratfalls that plague lovers in the African Diaspora, including the specter of AIDS, closeted homosexuality, and the problems that afflict relationships regardless of ethnic background.
Among the more intriguing elements is the chemistry exhibited by Courtney Comer and Brian Epps, as they weather the unwelcome meddling of Comer's older sister, played by Jennifer Marie. Intent on molding her younger sibling into her idea of a successful Black woman, Marie incessantly baits Comer's Hip-Hop obsessed suitor with insulting references like "thug boy," and "urban renewal project." Her disdain, of course, extends to his musical tastes as well. "Do they have to play that garbage so loud?" she exclaims in one of the many humorous moments.
This scenario is presided over by Locke High School alumnus Londale Theus as the facilitator/psychologist. Theus lends an authoritative air to the proceedings, understandable since he was a career Santa Monica policeman before embarking on his present livelihood as an actor. Filling out the cast are Charles Early as Marie's put-up-on mate; Joandrea Reynolds as a woman aiming for motherhood as her biological clock races toward middle age; James, who plays her love interest in addition to his duties as director and writer; and Natalie Machado as Theus' assistant, who has her own unrequited yearnings.
James has an extensive background as a writer for The Source, Vibe, and as editor of the music periodical Rap Sheet. Along the way, he has engaged in numerous dialogues about relationship issues, particularly in his online syndicated column "The Bridge" (http://bridgecolumn.proboards.com/).
With a longtime interest in playwriting and the theater spurring him on, James recently broke away from his journalistic pursuits to create "Love in a Day," his first major stage production.
Continuing to explain his initial aim in scripting this story he said, "I wanted to write a play that dealt with real life situations that plague modern relationships, but I wanted it to be a serious piece that people could relate to and enjoy."
His immediate plans are for a film version of "Love in a Day," as well as a new play he is scripting. His new venture, titled "The Exchange," deals with today's environment of deadly sexual diseases that are often ignored in favor of free sex without protection.
Plans are also under way for "Love in a Day" to be launched as a tour production for churches within the month, but James hopes to mount another run at the Adler Theatre soon.
For more details, visit the website www.loveinaday.com