Review: ‘P.I.M.P; Five A.M.’

Preston Whitmore has amplified the seldom-heard voices of society's grass-roots level, offering a collection of finely wrought personalities, whose perceptions and inner dignity transcend their subjugated status in life.

Preston Whitmore has amplified the seldom-heard voices of society’s grass-roots level, offering a collection of finely wrought personalities, whose perceptions and inner dignity transcend their subjugated status in life. Doing ample justice to Whitmore’s work are actor/comedian Freeze Luv (series regular on UPN’s “Malcolm and Eddie”) and Yvonna Kopacz (NBC’s “Days of Our Lives”). The production is enhanced by the outstanding costuming of Jennifer Bryan, the mood-evoking music of Deyon Dobson and the sound design of Joyce Long.

According to Watts denizen Slim Jenkins, the letters P-I-M-P are only the initials for “positive individual making progress.” Killed in an auto accident while attempting to elude police, Slim is hilarious in his unapologetic defense of his chosen way of life and in his indignation that he is being kept waiting in purgatory instead of being allowed to talk to the “main man” himself. Luv offers a tour de force portrayal of this proud street entrepreneur, as well as five other characters from Slim’s neighborhood.

Particularly rewarding is Society, a happy-go-lucky but deeply spiritual Chicano who makes his living washing car windows. Taking great pride in his personal work ethic, Society observes that most of the world is “just one paycheck away from being homeless,” and the only important thing is a person’s relationship with “the man upstairs.”

Luv also completely inhabits the personas of the mildly tipsy elderly barber Percy Floyd, who has witnessed the full spectrum of life from behind his barber’s chair, and Kiwan, a joyfully energetic youth who is just beginning to burst through the seams of childhood. Luv’s depiction of whimsical Jamaican drug dealer Stefan, is only slightly marred by the actor’s wavering accent. And the closing portrayal of spiritually charged but less colorful Reverend Reverend, who presides at Slim’s funeral, suffers only in comparison to the richly detailed characters that came before.

“Five A.M.” features Kopacz in five short vignettes that spotlight the plight of women all the way back to Adam — and before Eve. With each portrayal separated by effective feminist radio hosts (pre-recorded by Quiet Storm, Jennifer Bryan, Sylvia Hamm and Rahvaunia Johnson), Kopacz doesn’t match Luv’s depth of character development, but she exudes an appealing sincerity and commitment to each interpretation.

She is absolutely believable as Glenda Gary, the high-powered Mary Kay Cosmetics representative, who firmly believes black women can lift themselves out of their poverty and subjugation by the power of their own self-determination to get out there and sell.

Kopacz also acquits herself well as: Dee, a young child just beginning to understand that she must do things differently from the women who came before her; Mina, a hopeless addict who still believes she “can quit anytime — this just ain’t the time”; and Lilith, the strong-willed original first woman, who, according to Hebrew folklore, was replaced by God for the much milder and more malleable Eve.

The only character that eludes Kopacz is the incarcerated wife-beater, Gregory Bolds. Though Bolds offers an intriguing rationalization that he inherited his attitudes about women from the generations of violent men in his family, it is always apparent that there is a woman onstage, self-consciously play acting at being a man.

P.I.M.P; Five A.M.

Solos; Tiffany Theatre: 99 seats; $20 top

Production

Theater for the Grassroots presents "Preston Whitmore's P.I.M.P" and "Five A.M.," two one-person, one-act plays, written and directed by Preston A. Whitmore II. Producer, Gay Iris Parker.

Cast

P.I.M.P. - Freeze Luv Five A.M. - Yvonna Kopacz Radio announcers - Quiet Storm, Jennifer Bryan, Sylvia Hamm, Rahvaunia Johnson
Set design, Simon Dobbin; lighting design, Doc Ballard; costume design, Jennifer Bryan; sound design, Joyce Long; original music, Deyon Dobson. Opened Sept. 17, 1998; reviewed Sept. 20; runs until Sept. 27. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
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