Friday, October 24, 2008

Basic Training


By Kahlil Ashanti. Barrow Street Theatre. (CLOSED)

Kahlil Ashanti's well-traveled solo show about his experiences in the Air Force, and in particular his time as an entertainer in the USAF's Tops in Blue, gets high marks for his versatile, polished work as a performer, though some critics were less charmed by the writing.

Back Stage A-
(Ron Cohen) Kahlil Ashanti is a charismatic and immensely skilled performer. He endows his autobiographical solo show, Basic Training, with irresistible energy...While never preachy, the script examines the oppressive racism pervading the culture both around and within the black community, meeting it with humor and resiliency...The play itself, though affecting and credible, is not exactly the thing here. Rather, it's Ashanti's telling...Basic Training runs just a little more than an hour but without hesitation can be called a genuine tour de force.

NY Times B
(Neil Genzlinger) Mr. Ashanti is a sort of one-man army in "Basic Training," his engaging solo show...though "one-man Air Force" might be more correct. He plays 23 an often hilarious recounting of his days in the Air Force in the early 1990s...Sure, some of these characters are standard-issue caricatures, like the loud and profane drill instructor, but Mr. Ashanti delivers them with such vigor that you're laughing anyway...The show is less successful when it turns serious...This part of his material may be heartfelt, but it also feels manipulative.

Time Out C+
(Rob Weinert-Kendt) Ashanti proves himself a brilliantly nuanced performer, inhabiting a dozen diverse characters with grace, and his best scenes flow almost cinematically. However, much of Basic Training is a show-off's gallery of shopworn types and tropes...The storytelling suffers from some frustrating gaps and gimmicks...And the recurring domestic drama among Ashanti, his mother and an abusive stepdad is simply one-dimensional.

Back Stage A- 13; NY Times B 10; Time Out C+ 8; TOTAL: 31 / 3 = 10.3 (B)

No comments: