Editor’s Note: While Lamar Hill has gained significant success as a spoken word poet, he is also developing a considerable body of work as a playwright. From his first production “Deception and Denial” nearly a decade ago, Lamar has been bringing all kinds of characters to life onstage and in short film vignettes. And he does this quite successfully, with the coonery you often find in modern-day Black theater markedly absent. Lamar also keeps his poetry legacy alive within his theatrical performances by always infusing performances by poets into the productions. This past Saturday evening, Hill’s latest literary labor, “Love, Lust, and Other Truly Remarkable Things” made its way to The Eubie Blake Center on Howard Street. This ambitious production was a collection of three plays that the audience watched in shifts. Hill’s return to playwriting after an absence of several years was highly anticipated by many, including CEO of The Baltimore Scene Chin-yer. She was in the crowd at the well-attended event, and her take on it follows.
Love, Lust, and Other Truly Remarkable Things — Review by Chin-yer
I witnessed something groundbreaking in our scene on Saturday night. When I first read that we would be moving from room to room at the Eubie Blake Center, watching three different plays in one night, I was excited but also a little anxious. It seemed like it would be a challenge to pull off. Perhaps it was. However, it didn’t feel that way as an audience member. The show flowed nicely and the crowds moved in an orderly fashion from floor to floor for each of the three showings.
When I arrived, I was given a green ticket which marked the order in which I would watch the three plays. My viewing order was: 1. The Valley of the Shadow of Death starring Renee Rucker and Rick Palm Jr. ; 2. Bend It Like Tyler starring Larry Lancaster and Rebecca Dupas; and 3. Do Not Resuscitate starring Howard G. and Alexander Butler.
The Valley of The Shadow of Death was good. It was definitely the most interactive of the three plays that I saw that evening. In this play, a woman scorned is expressing her anger and hurt towards her lover as she aims a gun to his chest. Heartbeats race as the audience tries to figure out if she will kill him or herself. The play addresses infidelity, abuse, and also touches on the possible causes of each. During the character’s lines, you could hear the audience members get riled up. It felt like church, at times with women shouting “Oh no he DIDN’T say that while she was holding a gun. He’s stupid,” and men yelling in agreement when Melvin’s character expresses the relationship’s issues from the male perspective.
The second play, Bend It Like Tyler, was my favorite. I have worked with Larry Lancaster for years on events but I’ve never seen him act. I was definitely most excited to see this one simply because he was in it. I’ve seen Rebecca rock stages for years as a poet but I had never seen her in this capacity either. They both blew me away. They did a great job and had very convincing chemistry.
Larry Lancaster and Rebecca Dupas in “Bend It Like Tyler” – Photo by Michelle Antoinette Photography
The writing of this play was the best of the night. The messages from Bend it Like Tyler will stay with me always. It told the story of a writer, Tyler, who is committed to telling his unadulterated story. Citing Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright as inspiration, Tyler expresses that he wants to write what he is led to write and leave a meaningful literary legacy. His wife, however, is trying to convince him to “bend a little” and give the people what they want (mindless entertainment) so they can pay the bills. As the play progresses, Tyler provides moving reasons why he, as a writer, must write what he is called to write. My favorite lines of the play are “Bad writers write what they think people want to read. Good writers write what they know people want to read. Great writers write what no one wants to read until they read it.” That needs to be printed onto a poster, magnet, or T shirt. I love it.
The final play, Do Not Resuscitate, which was directed by Walter M. Jones, was the most controversial. Lamar shines light on the hypocrisy of church leaders and on the inconsistencies of the Bible. As I was watching this play, I kept looking at the other audience member’s faces to see if anyone was going to get up and leave. I know how folks get when people say anything critical about Christians or Christianity. I thought it was a brave play to write. It was my second favorite play of the night. Howard G, in particular, shined as an actor. However, the entire cast did a great job.
Lastly, I really liked that this event was infused with spoken word poetry. Each scene started with a high energy performance of a poem that spoke to the theme of each play. Roscoe Burnems poem about God and Love before Do Not Resuscitate was amazing. Black Chakra and Lady Brion also gave great performances.
It was a great night. I left feeling driven to create, which to me is the sign of a very successful event. It was also great to see so many of my favorite faces in the audience. I was happy to be there and felt proud to witness this. Everyone seemed proud. Shout out to Lamar Hill for breaking the mold and giving our scene a memorable artistic experience. I look forward to the next production.