Theater Review: STEW (Pasadena Playhouse)

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by Jakera Willis on July 18, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles


Pulitzer-Prize finalist Stew by  Zora Howard, and directed by Tyler Thomas, opened last Sunday at the Pasadena Playhouse. This play invites audiences into the intimate and transformative space of a kitchen, where Mama and her daughters prepare a special stew while confronting their past and present. With a seamless narrative, Howard delves into the complexities of growing up in a Black household and the challenges faced by blended families.

Jasmine Ashanti, LisaGay Hamilton, Roslyn Ruff, and Samantha Miller

The play effortlessly captures the essence of these experiences, evoking a sense of familiarity and belonging. From the resonating gospel tunes to the authentic moments of Mama (LisaGay Hamilton) teaching Lil’ mama (Samantha Miller) how to snap green beans or Nelly (Jasmine Ashanto) how to roll dumplings, the production creates a genuine sense of home.

LisaGay Hamilton and Roslyn Ruff

The performers are captivating, showcasing their commitment and raw talent. Lillian (Roslyn Ruff) manages being a mom and balancing her relationship with her mother (Mama) and daughter (Nelly). You can see that history has repeated itself in the mistakes made in the past, and how the story offers a lingering hope that things, and people, can change.

Jasmine Ashanti, Roslyn Ruff, LisaGay Hamilton, and Samantha Miller

Each character’s truths, secrets, and desires are delicately unveiled, taking the audience on a gripping journey that oscillates between golden memories and earth-shattering revelations. While some may find the ambiguous ending unsatisfying, the brilliance lies in the convergence of three generations of women, united around a table, sharing their stories through the act of preparing food. Stew leaves viewers pondering what lies ahead, ultimately winning our hearts for its simple yet profound genius.

Jasmine Ashanti

photos by Mike Palma

Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave. in Pasadena
Tues-Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on August 6, 2023
for tickets (starting at $35), call 626.356.7529 or visit Pasadena Playhouse

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