Theater Review: MAN’S FAVOR DEVIL’S PLAN (Robey Theatre Company at Los Angeles Theatre Center)

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by Tony Frankel on November 15, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles

MAN’S FAVORITE CAST

On Nathan Stuffel’s terrific set of a loading dock behind a hotel, it is 1938 Los Angeles. These are tough times for everyone, but especially the Black employees who must belittle themselves to keep their jobs as cooks, maids, etc. The unscrupulous white boss Avery (Darrell Phillip) is part overseer and carpetbagger by taking sexual advantage of the women and stealing from the men. Kwik Jones’s new play Man’s Favor Devil’s Plan, now receiving its world premiere by Robey Theatre Company at Los Angeles Theatre Center, creates many a heartbreaking situation as we watch the hotel’s crew navigate keeping their jobs with keeping their souls. There’s the bellhop, a young dance-loving Laddie (Matt Jennings) , who puts on a wide grin and hoots a “Yahz, sir” when addressing Avery, who passive-aggressively tells Laddie to not call him “sir.” Laddie’s sister, DD (Ashlee Olivia Jones) is cornered to do the worst with her odios employer. Dishwasher Butchie (Nic Few), is an erstwhile boxer who is prime to buck  the system, while his dreamboat Mabel-Lynn (Christina Childress) is facing eviction. When Mabel-Lynn rejects advances from Avery, it is elderly restaurant server Pearl (Crystal Nix) who gets the brunt of it.

If it sounds like Avery is almost too mean, he is in Stuffel’s hands. If he went after one or two employees that would be one thing, but everyone? The workers are all looking out for each other, but there’s little conflict between them. Which means the conflict between Avery and his crew goes from 10 to 10 with nowhere to breathe. This, compounded by the scenes written for the small playing area on the loading dock, make the script a bit static. What does work is some terrific dialogue from truly well-drawn characters that pop from the page, given what is the most distinctive cast I have seen on L.A. stage since I don’t know when. The wonderfully singular faces alone are fantastic, but aided by the actors’ expressiveness, Julian C. White‘s studied direction, and Naila Aladdin Sanders period costumes, I never doubted the time in which our story takes place.

photos by Jermaine Alexander

Man’s Favor Devil’s Plan
Robey Theatre Company
Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S Spring St in DTLA
ends on November 20, 2022
for tickets, visit Robey

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