At two hours and forty-five minutes long including intermission, PLEASE be good! This is the thought that came to my mind when I agreed to attend the Los Angeles premier of the highly anticipated stage play, Zeola Gaye’s MY BROTHER MARV...
At two hours and forty-five minutes long including intermission, PLEASE be good! This is the thought that came to my mind when I agreed to attend the Los Angeles premier of the highly anticipated stage play, Zeola Gaye’s MY BROTHER MARVIN, at the Pantages Theatre on Friday. Quite frankly, tagging alongside EURweb publisher, Lee Bailey, I did not want to be the one who, at intermission, suddenly developed a “headache” and had to leave.
So glad that scenario didn’t have to play out.
When it comes to live theatre, some of us have very little tolerance with imperfection. Probably based on years of personal experience in the discipline; where we have gained an appreciation and respect for the craft because not only have we been behinds the scenes, we have even done the work. So we get peeved easily at a poorly written script, bad acting; and even audience members disrespecting the craft by showing up late or having private cell phone conversations while the actors are speaking their lines.
With that said, the above scenario doesn’t describe the play we saw at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles (well, except the last part about audience members showing up late and having private…well, you know what I’m sayin’.) The play we saw was brilliantly written, with a superb cast; who knew exactly what they were doing. The play we saw had a cohesive nature that is only found in a unit; a team working together “ride-or-die” style; Stakeholders with a point to prove.
Now for what you came here for.
Yes, this is a play about the life and times of Marvin Gaye the “Prince of R&B.” But no, you will not hear his music in it. Is this a problem? Of course it is. Should it be a deal-breaker? No. And don’t think for a moment that the production shy’s away from this pink elephant in the room. You’ll get an earful at the top of the show on why there’s no Marvin Gaye music, and the challenges the show’s producer, Zeola Gaye, endured on this journey – not excluding death threats. The disclosure is tastefully executed, but audience members are left puzzled by the reasons (or lack thereof) for the omission. One audience member who had heard about the “no MG music” policy said she played his music in her car on the way to the theater. Another woman said the production has motivated her to have a Marvin Gaye music-only party. She even invited us!
But once you wrap your brain around that, the disappointment fades and you sit back to learn about the man behind the music; the soft-spoken idealist who could not escape his demons, the deep family karma; the toxic relationship he had with his father, and the respect and adoration he had for his mother. You hear about the Marvin Gaye ego, and the arrogance he so effortlessly displayed as he climbed his ladder of success; the temper he unleashed when someone messed with his money, and of course, the drugs.
But this story goes deeper than Marvin, Jr. A lot is revealed about his parents, Alberta and Marvin Gay, Sr. and their relationship to each other. Clifton Powell (who also directs) plays the elder Gay to acting perfection. His character speaks poignantly to the audience at one point, asking not to be judged and then delves into a pitiful soliloquy that leaves you spellbound. Powell’s Gay is a sad, delusional man with effeminate ways that go far beyond his fascination with female lingerie; and writer Angela Barrow-Dunlap along with producer Zeola Gaye offers a no-holds-barred script with revelations that takes the audience behind the curtain in the elder Gays sordid relationship with his own mother; and the toll this relationship has taken on his wife.
Lynn Whitfield’s “Alberta Gay” is resilient, strong and loyal. She is the glue of the family for sure. To describe Ms. Whitfield’s performance as superb seems too small a word. She flies like an eagle in this role. She knows “her” well, and is not afraid to lighten up and have fun with the role in all the right moments. Her scenes with Keith Washington, who portrays