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Karamu’s ‘It Happened In Atlanta” is a slice of life play for all peoples

It is 2019 and Trajan (Darelle Hill) and Dava (Brandi Gipson) are a successful Black couple in their early forties. He is an award winning author and she a court prosecutor. They have an upscale home in the better part of Cleveland, Ohio. Trajan is recovering from the effects of a recent mild stroke. On a wintry afternoon they are playing hosts to Allen (Dyrell Barnett) and Reven (Sydney Smith). The two couples were close friends some twenty years ago at college but have drifted apart over the years.

Allen has just been made a partner in the Los Angeles law firm he works for and has been recently ordained as a minister. His wife is an attorney as well. In spite of their busy lifestyles in California, he and his wife have raised two exemplary young men who are both college material. They are in fact awaiting word as to which college has accepted their oldest for his graduate work.

After a period of small talk, Trajan breaks out some rare African rum for he and Allen and Dava and Reven start hitting the Jack Daniels. As talk about their past lives in college come up, Reven pulls out a bag of top grade weed and a card game from her bra. With the four of them lubricated and herbally enhanced they begin to play the game. It consists of a player drawing a card and asking a question to their spouse about themselves such as “What is one thing would you change about me?” or “What is something about me that you are not aware of?” You know...dangerous shit.

As the evening progresses we find that there was “that time in Atlanta at Freaknik” where the couples switched partners. The result was Reven getting pregnant by Trajan with her first son. Allen still carries a torch for Dava. Trajan would like to meet his “son”. Reven is addicted to performing oral sex on strange men. Trajan has written his next book about that spring break in Atlanta.

Fights break out, yelling ensues, accusations are made and a lot of booze and weed is consumed as the couples separate to try to hammer out some compromises between themselves. Overall, you can tell that there is real love and affection between the four just by the depth of insults they hurtle at each other. Nothing is scared.

First off, let me talk about the stage design by Richard Morris, Jr. There was not a person in that theater that did not want to move in immediately. From the raised kitchen area, sumptuous living area, that really cool fireplace, entrance area and writer’s den it was all extremely livable. Adam Ditzel does an amazing job on the lighting, highlighting areas as needed all without us being aware of his actions. Richard B. Ingraham’s sound design is crisp, even when the actors are at the far reaches of the set. Dred Geib finds all the correct props needed to emphasize the upscale vibe. Brielle McGrew outfits everyone to the Ts from wig to toe.

As for the actors, they are for the most part superb. At the Sunday matinee there were some line flubs and it took a few minutes for the play to get its feet under it but that should even out as the run progresses.

Darelle Hill as Trajan runs the gambit of emotions with great effect. Brandi Gipson as his long suffering wife Dava is the picture of compassionate. Brassy Sydney Smith as Reven is the unfiltered, no holds barred force of nature who knows who she is and what she wants. Dyrell Barnett as the low keyed Allen underplays the role with charm. The unsung hero of this work is director Tony F. Silas who saw to it that the pacing, humor, pathos and development of the various characters is spot on.

This slice of urban Cleveland life will ring true especially with older married couples who would have sense enough NOT to play “the couples game” with each card being a hand grenade with the pin pulled and tossed aside. That fact withstanding, it was intriguing to see the created chaos and how each person worked to make everything right. A solid play with a solid performance worth seeing with your significant other.

Karamu House’s “It Happened in Atlanta” will be on stage at 2355 East 89th Street, Cleveland, Ohio through March 30, 2024. For more information and to order tickets or call (216) 795-7070.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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