Matrix Theatre Company premiers Neighbors, A Play With Cartoons
2010-08-02 · By Editor
Subtitled “A Play with Cartoons,” Neighbors is guaranteed to be the most provocative play you’ll see this year. Following on the heels of last season’s multiple award-winning production of Stick Fly, Joseph Stern’s Matrix Theatre Company is back with Brenden Jacobs-Jenkins’ shocking, explosive, and wildly theatrical new play that examines race relations in post-racial America. Nataki Garrett directs the West Coast premiere at The Matrix Theatre, August 28 through October 24, with previews beginning August 19.
Have you seen the new neighbors? Richard Patterson is an upwardly mobile African-American academic. The family of black actors who has moved in next door is rowdy, tacky, shameless, and uncouth. They are not just invading his neighborhood – they’re infiltrating his family, his sanity, and his entire post-racial lifestyle.
“Branden is a part of a growing group of New York-based writers of color who have started a previously taboo conversation about identity politics in America,” says Garrett. “In the play, Richard has cut himself off from major aspects of his identity. The family who moves in next door embodies his worst nightmare. They represent everything he’s tried to deny in himself.”
“I see Neighbors as the continuation of the dialogue about race in America,” asserts Stern, who first workshopped Neighbors at the Matrix last December, before it went on to premiere in New York as part of The Public Theatre’s LAB series in February.
In an unusual move, The Public opened its LAB production up for review. “Jacobs-Jenkins invents a theatrical conceit sure to baffle and enrage… messy, audacious, fitfully stunning,” wrote David Cote in Time Out. In his Back Stage Critic’s Pick review, Erik Haagensen raved: “Jacobs-Jenkins has arrived with a big old bang with ‘Neighbors,’ a grandly theatrical, highly subversive, and immensely intelligent play.”
“It’s not my intention to shock, just to put these ideas into constellation,” explains Jacobs-Jenkins. “What is the value, or lack of value, of ‘blackness’? Aren’t we past this? Well no, because we still recognize these images. If we were really past it, you wouldn’t feel anything. I’m tired of the idea that these issues of race are no longer with us.”
At the Matrix, Neighbors will feature an ensemble cast including Baadja-Lyne (Flatliners, The Lady Killers); Keith Arthur Bolden (Fences and Gem of the Ocean at The Fountain Theatre); Leith Burke (Judgment at Nuremberg, on Broadway; The Tempest at A.C.T.); Julia Campbell (LA Drama Critic’s Circle award for Best Actress in Bitter Women); James Edward Shippy (Off Broadway’s Another Man’s Poison); Rachae Thomas (Musical Theatre of LA’s Ragtime, A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Theatricum Botanicum); Daniele Watts (Cornerstone Theatre’s Demeter in the City, Ken Roht’s 99 Cents Only Show: The Calendar Girl Competition); and Derek Webster (regular on Mental, recurring on Kville).
Neighbors previews August 19 through August 27, opens for press on Saturday, August 28, and continues through October 24. Previews and performances are scheduled Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm. All tickets are $25.00. The Matrix Theatre is located at 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046. For reservations and information, call 323.960.7774 or go to www.plays411.com/neighbors.