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LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Review
by Eunice Marquet
Like its characters Corner Wars has a lot of potential that is never realized. Based on the true events surrounding the "Lex Street murders", Corner Wars endeavors to bear witness to the struggle of ordinary teenagers in the urban neighborhoods of North Philadelphia.
Faced with diminishing job opportunities, increasing family responsibilities and no real hope to improve their situation, the young men in this play have found the local drug business to be the most promising vocation available. Perched on broken milk crates the boys spend their days ticking off the minutes until the end of their shift. However, their livelihood is threatened when another drug gang sets up shop a few streets over. Unable to keep up with the competition and feeling that they must defend their territory, they turn to violence to put an end to these troubles.
The drama's strength of this lies in the relationships and dialogue of the seven lead characters. Playwright Tim Dowlin demonstrates an exquisite use oflanguage and there are moments, especially early in the script, that are pure magic.
The initial momentum is quickly lost. The boys' banter is interesting and amusing, but ultimately doesn't help move the story along. Mr. Dowlin also gets bogged down in details, setting up a number of story-lines that he simply abandons. Plot points are hidden behind the endless character development and it seems as though he feels obligated to provide a back-story for all 18 of the speaking roles.
David Shaw as Kareem, Cornell McIntosh as Brody, Eric Carter as Jay, Joel Holiday as Chris, Omar Evans as Dex and Chris Williams as Jah make up the core of the ensemble. These young actors embrace their characters with passion. They eloquently deliver their lines and work together like a finely tuned machine. Kyra Knox and Erika Myers also deserve note for their performances. The rest of the cast is somewhat less successful. It is painful to watch the two homicide detectives struggle to incorporate the urban dialogue. Their anger and adversarial attitudes are embarrassingly affected and the actress playing the social worker does little more than whine.
Creating a street corner in front of an abandoned building, set designer Justin Grant provides an effective backdrop of urban poverty and decay. Original music by Strongarm Entertainment/Roundtable accentuates the action as the play moves from scene to scene. Apparently the music was so popular that the producers have created a CD of the soundtrack which can be purchased in the lobby for $10.
Despite the fact that Corner Wars deals with subject matter that deserves expression and the playwright is obviously very talented, the script needs structure, the staging is haphazard and the production as a whole lacks focus. Dowlin's mentor and Corner Wars director Mel Williams fails to address these problems through his direction. The end result is a brave experiment that garners some extraordinary characters but does not deliver a cohesive story or an emotional connection. Mr. Williams notes that the script has gone through five revisions. I would suggest that it should be revisited.
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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