Stephen Einhorn

Scripter Dee Jae Cox has fashioned an overly wordy but thematically compelling melodrama, focusing on the star-crossed lesbian love affair between Harlem thrush Georgia Brooks (Sweet Baby J'ai) and upscale flapper Lindsey Dalton (Aynsley Bubbico) during the blues-tinged years of the Harlem Renaissance.

Scripter Dee Jae Cox has fashioned an overly wordy but thematically compelling melodrama, focusing on the star-crossed lesbian love affair between Harlem thrush Georgia Brooks (Sweet Baby J’ai) and upscale flapper Lindsey Dalton (Aynsley Bubbico) during the blues-tinged years of the Harlem Renaissance. Cox is so determined that the black saloon singer and the white socialite relentlessly explain themselves to each other that she shortchanges the dramatic relevance of their situation. Helmer Kelly Ann Ford and a competent ensemble strive to keep the action moving forward but are undermined by redundant scenes and awkward scene changes.

Buoyed by an infusion of period-perfect original tunes by Michelle Weiss, the dramatic throughline concerns the tentatively evolving romantic alliance of Georgia and Lindsey during the months before and after the life-altering stock market crash of 1929. J’ai and Bubbico project a tangible physical and emotional attraction to each other that gets diluted by their constant jabbering.

Both are more than competent vocalists. J’ai gives credence to the praise accorded Georgia’s talent as she seductively wends her way through such Weiss ballads as “Alone ‘n’ Singin’ the Blues,” “The Rich Get Richer” and “Word’s Out.” Bubbico impresses in duos with J’ai on the comical “Buffet Flats” and the haunting “Even Angels Need Wings to Fly.”

The musical highlight of the production is Bubbico’s emotion-charged turn on “Ma” Rainey’s 1924 ode to lesbian love, “Prove It on Me Blues.”

Swirling about the duo’s romantic machinations are Georgia’s family and friends, dealing with the realities of being second-class citizens in their own hometown. With the limited time allotted to them, laudable perfs are turned in by Malik B. El-Amin as Georgia’s protective brother Mack and the duo of Alan Keith Caldwell and Terrence Tatum as Georgia’s musicians Stevie and Bill, respectively. Melinda Edmonson is adorable as Mack’s lady love, Lula Bailey.

The most dramatically rewarding aspect of this tale is the presence of New Orleans voodoo lady Aunt Josie (Deborah Kellar), who is both guide and mentor to the troubled protags. Kellar’s gin-swilling Josie exudes a captivating homespun wisdom and zesty comedic flair as she cajoles and prods everyone around her to accept the dictates of fate.

Not faring as well is Alan Brooks in his turn as Lindsey’s malevolent, socialite father, Kenley Walter Dalton III. Brooks actually appears uncomfortable mouthing Cox’s stilted villain-to-the-max dialogue.

The period setting of the production is enhanced by the designs of Lisa Lechuga (sets), Sharell Martin (costumes), Lisa D. Katz (lighting) and Cricket Myers (sound).

The production suffers from the scripter’s overly zealous agenda that the audience “get it.” With some judicious editing and restructuring, “Prove It on Me” could have the legs to move up to a larger arena and more fully realized staging with live musicians instead of an often undernourished pre-recorded soundtrack backing the vocals.

Prove It on Me

Stella Adler Theater; 99 seats; $30 top

Production

A Los Angeles Women's Theater Project in association with Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center presentation of a play with music in two acts by Dee Jae Cox, words and music by Michele Weiss. Directed by Kelly Ann Ford.

Creative

Sets, Lisa Lechuga; costumes, Sharell Martin; lighting, Lisa D. Katz; sound, Cricket Myers. choreography, Ameenah Kaplan; stage manager, Terri Roberts. Opened Jan. 19, 2007. Reviewed Jan. 20. Closes March 2. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast

Aunt Josie - Deborah Kellar Georgia Brooks - Sweet Baby J'ai Lindsey Dalton - Aynsley Bubbico Mack Brooks - Malik B. El-Amin Stevie - Alan Keith Caldwell Bill Slick - Terrence Tatum Lula Bailey - Melinda Edmonson Kenley Walton Dalton III - Alan Brooks

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