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Theater review: 'How Katrina Plays' at Write Act Repertory

September 24, 2009 |  4:45 pm

BJ

In the four years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it is bewildering how relatively little theater has addressed the disaster. At some level, the Write Act Repertory production "How Katrina Plays," the late Judi Ann Mason's docudrama, is thus beyond criticism.

Acclaimed TV writer Mason, who died July 8, intended it as a historical record and a tribute to her late brother, B.J. Mason, a Louisiana journalist who kept her apprised of what was transpiring. Played by Christopher Carrington, B.J. is one of the play's narrative linchpin.

The other is Bella Sera (Wil Bowers), a fierce transvestite who leads a "hurricane party," complete with revelers and a righteous band under Lou Briggs' musical direction. On designer Thomas Brown's evocative Bourbon Street set, they frame a surreal gumbo of chaos, terror and heroism.

A mother and son spend the show frantically searching for each other. A wealthy Southern belle seeks the ancient housekeeper who means more to her than her kin. Convicts take the opportunity to escape; residents trapped on their roofs witness atrocities. The Superdome becomes hell on Earth, the Klan rears its ugly head, and a vast diaspora ensues.

Racism dominates the scenario, even more than governmental ineptitude or the maddening fact that N'awlins still hasn't been restored. Yet the ferocious veracity of what's recounted is undeniable.

Director Tchia Casselle stewards her large ensemble past some awkward patches and unfinished glitches. They all merit our admiration. "How Katrina Plays" isn't the last word on this tragedy -- no single piece should be -- but its aims couldn't be higher.

-- David C. Nichols

"How Katrina Plays," Write Act Repertory at St. Stephen's Church, 6128 Yucca St., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Also, 5 p.m. Oct. 11 and 25. Ends Oct. 25. $25. (323) 469-3113. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.

Photo: Christopher Carrington. Credit: Deane Madsen.

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