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THEATER REVIEW

'Lovers' can't commit to one genre

October 22, 2005|Daryl H. Miller | Times Staff Writer

The touring theatrical offering "Friends and Lovers" makes a big deal about taking its inspiration from a novel by Eric Jerome Dickey, a crafter of popular page-turners about contemporary relationships. But this production aims to please all comers. Not interested in a dating drama? No problem. This show is also situation comedy, morality play, R&B concert and a night at the Apollo Theater.

Lively if overlong at nearly three hours, the show -- by Houston-based I'm Ready Productions -- stops at the Kodak Theatre through Sunday, then travels to Riverside, Long Beach and San Diego.

The title is, in part, a reference to the show's main topic: How should men and women interact? As friends? Lovers? Both? Or something more?

Answers come from the church as well as from study of modern culture. Subthemes include sex before marriage, abortion, domestic abuse and the legacy of growing up in an unhappy home.

Judged by the standards of conventional drama, the show can be classified only as an ill-focused mess. But such trivialities matter little when the experience is this interactive, with audience members feeling free to yell advice at the stage.

The characters -- young, attractive professionals -- are portrayed by performers recognizable from the worlds of comedy, music and TV.

Tyrel (played by the single-named Leon) and Shelby (Stacy Francis) hook up while on the rebound from bad breakups. They head almost immediately for bed. Debra (Monica Calhoun) and Leonard (Arnez J), meanwhile, are dating seriously but, at Debra's insistence, celibately. Comic-relief character Chiquita (Trina Jeffrie), an aggressively vivacious, wannabe martial artist, is forever fending off the advances of Bobby (Shawn McLemore).

Hovering on the periphery are Tyrel's ex-girlfriend, Lisa (Demetrius Thomas), and Shelby's possibly too good to be true alternate wooer, Richard (Mel Jackson).

The script -- crafted by a long list of people that includes director Je'Caryous Johnson and co-producer Gary Guidry -- is shaped with an ear toward lines meant to be repeated by theatergoers as they head out the doors. Example: Debra, on the phone with Shelby the morning after the latter's passionate first night with Tyrel, says: "Of course he likes you; you opened up your treasure chest and gave him all your jewels."

Much of the action is underscored with light, romantic jazz, performed live by a three-piece combo. Full-out vocal numbers begin to emerge just before intermission.

For those who enjoy the show, it's available on DVD and for sale in the lobby. You can't miss the sales kiosk. Audience traffic off the main floor is determinedly funneled right past it.

*

Where: Kodak Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

When: 3 and 8 p.m. today, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Price: $27 to $47

Also: 8 p.m. Thursday at Riverside Municipal Auditorium, 8 p.m. Friday at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, 3 and 8 p.m. next Saturday and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at Spreckels Theatre in San Diego

Contact: (213) 480-3232 or www.Ticketmaster.com

Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes

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