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    Elica Funatsu, Trish McCall, Thyais Walsh in Waitin' 2 End Hell. in Waitin' 2 End Hell
    Photo by Carmen de Jesus
    Elica Funatsu, Trish McCall, Thyais Walsh in "Waitin' 2 End Hell."

    "Hell" is other people

    "Waitin' 2 End Hell" is a raucously entertaining seven-person personality clash that exposes serious questions about black families and male-female miscommunication.


    The way people talk in "Waitin' 2 End Hell" is like hot and cold running water — one faucet turns up the truth and the other turns up the baloney and the only way to be satisfied is to let them both wash over you at once.

    Company: New Federal Theatre.
    Written by: William A. Parker.
    Directed by: Woodie King Jr..
    Cast: O.L. Duke, Trish McCall, Eric McLendon, Elica Funatsu, Marcus Naylor, Ron Scott, Thyais Walsh.
    Sound design by: Anthony Dixon.
    Set design by: Roger Predmore.
    Costumes by: Stephanie Rafferty.
    Lighting design by: Antoinette Tynes.
    Production stage manager: Stacy Waring.

    Related links: Official site | Playwright William a. Parker
    47th Street Playhouse
    304 W. 47th St.
    May 27 - Aug. 1, 2004

    We're introduced to most of the characters in this very funny drama as they gather around a dinner table and argue about men vs. women. Three couples — five of the six are black — get the audience charged up as they mercilessly cut down the opposite gender.

    "In my culture," says Angela (Elica Funatsu), a Japanese-American, "a woman finds honor in a good man."

    "Yeah," says her friend Shay (Thyais Walsh). "Well, maybe in your culture they got men worth honoring."

    As much as lines like these draw howls of appreciation mixed with outrage, the men on display in this play are pretty good ones. Alvin (Ron Scott) has years of experience as a parole officer and seems to treat Angela well. Larry (O.L. Duke) is a big, handsome fellow with an inner strength — and a problem with permanent relationships. And they've all come together to toast Dante (Marcus Naylor), loyal husband and father of two, on his 12th anniversary.

    But the problems start with Dante's wife, Diane (Trish McCall). Lithe and attractive, she's uneasy with her blandly reliable husband and plain-vanilla life. After suffering the slights of being a token black female advertising account manager whose bosses ignore her input at work, she comes home to a blue-collar man who doesn't seem to fully sympathize with what she deals with in the white-collar world. The dimming spark in her marriage is what adds heat to what at first seemed to be just a lighthearted fun-poking at the world of black men and women.

    William A. Parker's play, originally staged in California in 1998, is a raucous good time that envelops its serious issues in a sugar coating of sarcastic humor. (The audience members even got off a few of the best lines and the actors did admirably just to keep in character at times.) But the extent to which the underlying conflicts got under the audience's skin was evident in the last scene, when some shouted out and others applauded what seemed to be a consensus verdict on the characters' actions. It's a verdict that didn't sit well with me personally, but it's a tribute to the play that it stirred up such emotions and raised such pertinent questions while seeming to merely entertain.

    JUNE 27, 2004

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