|Brunch! mimosas! and riotous theater!
By Ernece B. Kelly
|February 17-February 23, 2005
Throughout, hip-hop music is playing, and the actors must carefully time their dialogue so that it's in-sync with the
beats. Testimony to the deft touch of the composer, most of this comes off smoothly, but when the actors are clearly
waiting for their "beat," the strain is obvious.
The plot is straightforward. An outraged Miriam Cook kills her husband; there's a trial, the jurors are bitterly divided,
a verdict is delivered and the play ends. Except that there's a shocking epilogue, which turns everything upside down.
Most of the actors turn in only cameo appearances as jurors. All of them turn in serviceable jobs. Hankins turns a
jaundiced eye and ear to the inside of the Jury Room. We watch them bicker, argue, even physically fight to
persuade one another. Most troubling is that many of them made up their minds before the trial began! So that as
the trial proceeds one is actually thinking about the defendant's clothes, another about going on vacation, and a third
is worrying about getting back to work.
Among the principal actors, standout performers are Ann Estill as Mrs. Martinez, a housekeeper who spills
incriminating stuff and Hankins herself in the juicy role of Mrs. Cook's attorney. Both have extensive careers in the
theater, with Estill holding a doctorate in voice performance.
Short, the musical, lasts only 40 minutes, and is performed to the recorded sounds of hip-hop. This may be the one
fundamental miscalculation of "A Weapon Most Unusual."
Hip-hop is the music of youth, yet the musical is pitched to an adult audience capable of appreciating issues of
adultery, fraud and which won't be offended by raw language, including a reference to Mrs. Cook as a "psychotic
b----." So, in some basic way, the choice of music is all wrong for the theme and tenor of the play.
That said, if you're looking for an enjoyable way to spend a weekend afternoon, you can munch and drink while
catching a broadly, funny play. "A Weapon Most Unusual" is slated to run through the summer at the Playwright
Tavern and Restaurant in midtown.
|Cast of "A Weapon Most Unusual!"
Writer,-director Jacqueline Hankins has done it again! Her new
hip-hop musical mystery, "A Weapon Most Unusual!" is, by turns, funny
Using the winning formula introduced in her 2004 theater piece,
"Cookin' the Books: A Recipe for Murder," also produced as
brunch-theater, Hankins combines live theater with motion pictures,
both with and without sound. (Some of the best scenes have no sound
track, forcing actors to over-act to hilarious effect).