Monday, October 30, 2017

Review of Adventure Stage Chicago's Akeelah and the Bee

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Akeelah and the Bee. It was adapted by Cheryl L. West based on the screenplay by Doug Atchison. It was directed by Daryl Brooks. It was about a girl named Akeelah (La Shone T. Kelly) whose father died and her and her father used to do crosswords and learn words together. She had a school spelling bee and she won it and there was a man there, Dr. Larabee (Michael Anthony Rawlins), who had almost won the National Spelling Bee when he was a kid. He agreed to mentor her, but she doesn't always want to put in all the work. Her mother, Gail (Gabrielle Lott-Rogers), also isn't very supportive at first. Once she gets to the regional spelling bee she meets her rival, who is a boy named Dylan (Glenn Obrero). All he wants to do is win because his dad (Arvin Jalandoon) will be mad at him otherwise. It's about memory, family relationships, and community. I think this is a beautiful and inspirational story about moving on and determination.

I think the party scene had a lot of really good elements in it. It shows how different these two worlds (Barrington Hills and the Southside of Chicago) coming together are. When Akeelah and Georgia (Brandi Lee) go to Barrington Hills for Javier's (Brandon Rivera) birthday, Georgia hates the food and that basically the only thing to do is play Scrabble. She wants to have a real party and dance and listen to music. I do have to agree with Georgia that it doesn't seem like a party I would have had, but Javier and Trish (Gaby FeBland) are having a great time. The tableaus were very funny where Akeelah and Dylan were battling to the death at Scrabble. They played the Jeopardy theme music and while the Scrabble game was going on, in the background you see the conflict going on between Georgia, Trish, and Javier. You also get to see the conflict between Dylan and his dad at the end of the scene. It shows how Dylan can't really make any decisions for himself; his father takes him away from the party because he was losing at Scrabble against Akeelah.

I think there are a lot of really great relationships in this show. My favorite one was with Akeelah and Dr. Larabee. I think I liked it so much because it was really sweet to see how they could be like family to each other by teaching each other. He teaches her about her rhythm that she has and how every word connects to an origin. She helps him discover that it is worth the risk to have emotional connection again. I really liked how Akeelah and her brother Reggie (Eric Gerard) had a very close relationship. They looked out for each other and they had their sibling code. But he makes really bad decisions because he is afraid he won't be able to contribute to what his sister and his mother need. It really shows what family is really like. It shows that with family you give second chances, which makes me very emotional because I know that sometimes second (or even fifth) chances aren't enough, but it is very true. I also really liked the friendship that Javier and Akeelah had, but I didn't really catch on to the romance until they basically announced it. Their friendship was really adorable and they helped each other out through a lot of things. Like when he got out in one of the spelling bee competitions, he wasn't super sad that he hadn't stayed in over her and he was cheering her on.

I really liked how community was such a big theme in the show. I loved how everyone came around to help Akeelah prep for the National spelling Bee when she needed it the most, even her enemies, like Ratchet Ronda (Kyra Jones). Sometimes I did feel like the neighborhood seemed a little bit stereotypical. Like how there was the town drunk (Kelvin Davis) and the nosy Christian lady next door (Yahdina U-Deen). It wasn't new or something I hadn't seen. But I still like how much they use the community element in this play to show you how close everyone was in this neighborhood.

People who would like this show are people who like great mentoring relationships, community, and Scrabble tableaus. I think that people should go see this show. I think it has a really empowering message and I liked it.

Photos: Doug Haight of Fortune Fish Films

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Ada Grey, you are wise beyond your years! Firstly, thanks for coming to our show and many thanks for reviewing it. Your observations about community and the relationships therein are spot on & your frank interpretation is appreciated.

Looking forward to reading your reviews in the future.

Yours Most Sincerely,
Michael Anthony Rawlins, AKA Dr. Larabee.