Photos by Jeff Lorch

                                      What a piece of work is a man!

Photos by Jeff Lorch

In the beginning, it’s not easy to determine what’s going on. There are balloons with “Happy Valentine’s Day,” Happy Birthday” and a banner that reads “Congratulations” and standing a few feet away is a floral wreath with a picture of Juicy’s father in the middle in his happier days. The widow soon to-be a wife is Juicy’s curvaceous mother Tedra (Nikki Crawford is pure sensation from start to finish). She mourned for Pap for a good five minutes before turning her former brother-in-law into husband two, when just moments ago she buried husband number one. Yes, it will be an interesting day. Juicy prepares a delicious feast while getting ready for the nuptials. That’s a lot of drama in the first few minutes. A lot of entertaining drama reminding the audience how lucky they are to be spectators and not participants. No wonder Juicy is messed up. “I feel deeply,” he says out loud. His friend Tio (Chris Herbie Holland is damn hysterical) comes over to eat and chop it up with his lifelong friend.
Juicy, like his long-suffering twin Hamlet, got some issues. Both of their mothers swiftly recovered from being widows to newly married wives who keep their incestuous relationships within the family. Then, both sons see and talk to their departed fathers who rigorously demand them to retaliate and kill their assassins. Talk about having major daddy issues. Juicy, (Marcel Spears does an excellent job playing the long-suffering Prince of Denmark), is caught between burying his father Pap (Billy Eugene Jones does a remarkable job as both playing Pop and former brother-in-law and uncle turned stepfather and new king Rev).
During the preparations, Juicy’s daddy pops up like a Jack-in-the-Box, wrapped in a red and white checkered tablecloth, peels it off to reveal a vanilla white suit and demanding his son seek vengeance for his death. “You gotta avenge me,” says Pap. Frightened after laying him in the ground minutes ago, Juicy flatly responds, “I ain’t no avenger.” Pap isn’t happy with that. He continues to pressure his son to annihilate his killer. Soon, more join in the feast Juicy arranged. Here comes Opal (the talented Adrianna Mitchell), dressed like a third grader, and her mother Rabby (Benja Kay Thomas works her fierceness and church hat with style and grace) always picking on Opal. A big surprise is Juicy’s friend Larry (Matthew Elijah Webb) coming on leave from the military. And, of course, the life of the party Miz Tedra. She’s in love with Rev and they both display their passion for each other, despite the sounds of disapproval from others.
Playwright and the 2022 recipient of The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, James Ijames, does a remarkable job in introducing a fresh new perspective to William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. His clever aphorisms, “What do you do when God don’t want you and the devil is afraid of you,” hit the mark. The play is filled with witty and thought-provoking adages. Yes, it is a tragedy. People do die, that’s no secret. How they live their lives is mesmerizing. There are a few surprises that makes this production very strong and enticing.


WHERE: Geffen Playhouse, located at 10886 Le Conte Ave, Westwood
WHEN: Now until Sun, May 5th. Wed – Thurs, at 8 p.m.; Sat, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sun, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
WHY SEE IT: A truly original take on a favored classic. Plus, it’s funny!
RUN TIME: 95 minutes with no intermission.
HOW MUCH: Tickets start at $30
INFO: www.geffenplayhouse.org