June 20, 2019 Radomir Vojtech Luza

Review of The Hollywood Fringe Festival Production of “The Notorious M.O.M.S.” by Yvette Saunders at Flight Theater in The Complex on Theatre Row on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, CA

If you are interested in a play about the degradation and humiliation life can offer, run do not walk to The Hollywood Fringe Festival workshop production of Yvette Saunders’ “The Notorious 
M.O.M.S.” running June 23rd, 28th and 29th at Flight Theater in The Complex on Theatre Row on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, CA. 
This is the story of Ella, an actress who tries to commit suicide because she does not know how to cope with recently being raped.
But to her shock and dismay, her interactions with the voice of legendary stand-up comedienne Moms Mabley save her life and bring her back to reality.
The writing here is tight, taut and titillating.  Ella overcomes the unthinkable through her own courage, conviction and clarity.
The language flows like a peaceful river and dances like Marlon Brando in “The Last Tango in Paris” or Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain.”
The words come together to paint a portrait of black skies interrupted by a shimmering sun, a dark tunnel bathed in train light or a raven soaring over field and mountain alike.
In other words, the premise here works.  The play, even at 50 minutes, is substantial and strong and electric and aching with possibility.
On the first Sunday of the run when this critic saw the show, the lighting design was especially effective and added to the angst, anxiety, but also, the artistic and comedic nature of the 
production.  
Director JC Gafford infuses what could have been, in lesser hands, a dragging, moralistic study of rape and suicide, into a show with a sense of humor and style from ear-to-ear and  
beginning to end.
The 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival participant returns this year by helming a play too deep and troublesome for many, with beauty, boldness and bravery.
The veteran director, who will next be the Assistant Director of “Loose Ends,” The Group Repertory Theatre’s upcoming Main Stage production, creates seamless transitions and memorable
moments with instinct, intuition and talent alone.
Having Ella and Mabley both address the audience, for example, is a courageous and insightful piece of blocking that works on every level and from every angle.
The teaching and blues and funk artist has the makings of a major director, especially if he gets a few mainstream theatrical successes under his belt.
Here he glows like a full moon on a clear night. 
Gafford has cast a proud and potent partner in Saunders.
Saunders (Ella/Moms Mabley) excels in the dual role.  The NYU Tisch School of the Arts BFA gives a convincing turn in what is nothing less than a one-person show.
Though there are moments at the beginning of the piece where Saunders needs to dig deeper to make the character more believable,
overall, the program performer in New York City’s Atlantic Theater Company gives an inspired and exhilarating performance complete with a spot-on portrayal of Mabley 
that captures the trailblazing stand-up comedienne’s charm, charisma, chutzpah and unique sense of humor.
It is not lost on Saunders that Mabley was an African American, female, lesbian performer in the 1930’s earning $10,000 a week at a time when each of these traits alone was deeply 
frowned upon. 
The veteran stage and screen actress, modern dancer and choreographer here enchants, illuminates and educates us, the audience, as to the rejuvenative and restorative powers of  
humor and love.
This critic hopes to see Saunders on the stages of Hollywood and Los Angeles again very soon.
Choreographer Fernando Christopher adds to the play’s power with tight, nimble and athletic dancing that is subtle and effortless in its presentation and character.
His is a rare and valuable gift. 
Furthering the message of the play are the innovative and imaginative set and sound design of Saunders and Gafford and the simple yet sumptuous costume design of Kayle Williams.
All in all, “The Notorious M.O.M.S.” succeeds because it is a powerful one-person show, not despite it.
Whether we, the audience, consider this a play or a workshop production is thoroughly unimportant.
What matters is that there is humanity, integrity, dignity and truth percolating directly beneath Saunders’ feet.
The premise here is so abundant, ample and bountiful that next to nothing can derail it.
The play runs on its own fuel, in its own engine and on its own interstate.
Little more need be said.
Except that this critic yearns for the collaboration of Saunders and Gafford again soon if for nothing else than a rich, rollicking and vital voice at a time when Los Angeles theatre and the 
world need it the most.
Kudos to all involved.
By Radomir Vojtech LuzaTheatre, Film and Book Critichttp://atthetheatrewithRadomirLuza.com
Showtimes:Hollywood Fringe Festival:June 23rd, 28th and 29th       Tickets: All Shows Are Pay What You Can.  $10 Sale Price.Information/Reservations: https:www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/6105/tab=ticketsWHERE: Flight Theatre in                The Complex at                 6472 Santa Monica Boulevard, (between Cole Avenue and Wilcox Avenue)                On Theatre Row in                Hollywood, CA 90038

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