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Theater Review : Lengthy 'P.O.W.' a Cautionary, Topical Tale

November 11, 1994|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Theatre Rascals, a company of actors who range in age from 12 to 21, is dead serious about a deadly issue in its drama "P.O.W. (People Over Weapons)," a lengthy, cautionary tale about kids and guns, at the Richard Pryor Theatre in Hollywood.

Joanie Pleasant plays Trina, a sensitive teen-age girl who is worried about her older brother Bootknee (Al Garrett), a gang initiate who's begun drug-dealing, and about her insecure little brother Jeremy (Jamil Smith).

Bootknee, told by sinister gang member Train (Edwin Rideau Fauria) to prove himself with a killing but reluctant to do so, hides the gun in Jeremy's room. Tragedy results when Jeremy finds the gun and takes it to school to keep from being picked on by the school bully, Darren (Rashaan Nall).

The young lead actors, members of the Faith Acting Studios performing arts school--many of whom have extensive TV credits--are mature and appealing in their roles, even in the face of inappropriate laughter from a group of schoolchildren in Saturday's audience, either uncomfortable with, or unmoved by, the play's serious side.

What dilutes the play's heartfelt message--what it means to be a man, what it means to be a family--is its length.

At two hours and 20 minutes, the play needs some judicious trimming and editing by writer-director Deirdre Weston. An anticlimactic, expository wrap-up that never rings true could be dropped almost in toto. It drains the impact of the play's most telling scene--Bootknee's moment of truth when he must choose between his two "families"--and nearly obscures the loss of the shooting victim with concern over Jeremy and Bootknee's fates.

* "P.O.W.," Richard Pryor Theatre, 1445 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood, Saturday and Nov. 19, 3 and 8 p.m.; Sunday and Nov. 20, 3 p.m.; Nov. 18, 8 p.m. $7.50-$15; (213) 466-1766.

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