Friday, July 30, 2010

Song of the Seekers, Cleveland Public Theatre’s Student Theatre Enrichment Program (STEP)

STEP right up, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and stop by a Cleveland city park for a galvanizing performance of Song of the Seekers by 27 talented teenagers. Working with director Chris Seibert and other Cleveland Public Theatre teaching artists, these students have adapted an ancient Indian text and made it compelling and contemporary.

This is free family theater, presented by the students in CPT’s STEP Program, and their hard work has culminated in an entertaining hour-long show. Employing a variety of musical formats from beat boxing to “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” the show follows a group of poets and a troupe of entertainers as they merge, flare up against each other, and eventually explore what it means to be an artist as well as an individual of worth.

This large cast has a lot on its plate, but it handles the often stylized movement with the energy and precision this kind of presentation requires. Plus, the actors enunciate clearly so that very few words are lost, even when nearby trains or trucks rumble past (one of the challenges of open-air productions).

Among the Poets, David Lewis Jr. as Ares and Michael McNairy as Leachim handle most of the heavy lifting as the story unspools, and soon we are introduced to Christopher Dooms as the arrogant and charismatic King Palaka (or “King P,” as he prefers). The King’s singers and dancers, dubbed KPEC for King Palaka’s Entertainment Company, have a new star, the beautiful Vasa, played with a nice mix of strength and vulnerability by Janette Patterson.

Trouble is, there are two guys with their eyes on Vasa: the poet Charudat (an engaging Dionte Sawyer) and the King’s bro Roofis (Marcus Howard in an amusingly boastful performance). Charudat is shadowed by his best friend Maitreya, rendered with comical goofiness (and irrepressible hunger) by Malcolm Keenon.

Amongst the songs and dances, other performers make themselves known. Isaiah Cancel is loose and limber as the gambler Lewie, who can predict the future with his dice, and Shalese Thornton exhibits excellent concentration, never breaking character as she sings and cavorts as a “court jester.”

Biana Carr is effective as Vasa’s best friend Sookie, and Bianca Carr registers the right amount of authority as Vasa’s mother Yaya. Kalim Hill skulks with the best of them as the thief Bartimus and Chatiana Moore is a powerful presence as Shanda, Charudat’s sister.

The rest of the exciting company includes Jocelyn Newkirt, Brianna Larkins, Jawan Rustin, Sean Eafford, Darryle Barnes, Olivia Winsteard, Nate Woodland, Dawon Taylor, Matthew McNeal, Tyisha George, Jasmine Harris, Christian McGinnis, Essence Flores and Syeed Selmon.

These performances are free and easily accessible, so stop by, bring a blanket or lawn chair, and see what an outstanding group of young people have been doing with their summer. You’ll be delighted!

Song of the Seekers

Produced by the CPT STEP Program.

Through August 8, free, at local parks.

Visit here for the schedule and locations.

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