Los Angeles Theater Review: THE NIGHT WATCHER (Kirk Douglas Theatre)

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by Harvey Perr on December 3, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

TELL US A STORY, AUNTIE CHARLAYNE

If I were a child, I would want Auntie Charlayne to tuck me in and tell me a story. Why? Because Auntie Charlayne –  that’s Charlayne Woodard –  just happens to be a great storyteller. She can get right in there, keeping you interested every step of the way, moving inexorably to the point of the story, and placing herself inside, in voice and movement, every character she introduces. I mean, she tells stories you wish would go on forever. And she has a dazzling smile. And when it flashes, you even forget for a moment that there is a whole lot of sadness beneath that smile. The Night Watcher, her newest solo show, is clearly about Charlayne Woodard herself and how she deals with her maternal instincts without ever becoming a mother herself. Mea culpa? Apologia? I don’t think so, nor do I think that what Ms. Woodard is doing here can be reduced to any single simple idea.

The Night Watcher – written and performed by Charlayne Woodard – at the Kirk Douglas Theatre – Los Angeles Theater Review by Harvey PerrThese are stories of reaching out. And they cover a whole spectrum of feelings about the variety and diversity of African-American experience, as seen through the eyes of some of the wondrous young women who have moved through Ms. Woodard’s life. If I remember most vividly the story of Africa, a sassy and knowing child who has unfortunately never learned to read, it is because this one delves into darker regions than most of the others. All the stories are filled with surprises. Some of the surprises will sadden you; others will make you laugh. Always, their connection to some deeper truth informs us that what we are hearing is as plain and unvarnished as the best poetry often is. Real people are always at the heart of the best theater. And Woodard’s people are real.

Charlayne Woodard has such a galvanizing stage presence, and the equally rare gift of connecting with an audience on the most astonishingly intimate level, that I hesitate to express any caviling at all, but a certain New-Aginess tends to creep into these stories as well as a tone of middle-class anger, and, if those moments could be looked at and possibly trimmed, The Night Watcher could attain The Night Watcher – written and performed by Charlayne Woodard – at the Kirk Douglas Theatre – Los Angeles Theater Review by Harvey Perra kind of perfection. Also, why, when someone has a talent the size of Woodard’s, in the elevated world of the theater, no less, does one get the impression at times that she is, on some level, auditioning for a film or a television role? Is that the curse of appearing on a stage in Los Angeles? Charlayne Woodard should relax. She has that indefinable something extra that is infinitely superior to anything in those other mediums.

photos by Craig Schwartz

The Night Watcher
Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles (Culver City)
scheduled to end on December 18
for tickets, visit http://www.centertheatregroup.org/

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