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THEATER REVIEW: “Poetical, Not To Be Played On The Radio” by Ira Aldridge Repertory Theatre

“I read a man today. He was homeless and standing on the corner of Pleasant Valley and somewhere. Eyes the color of stale hopes.” -- Calvin Manson

We’ve all seen them. Usually men, sitting or walking the median strip where cars line up at a stop sign or light, often carrying a scrawled sign on a piece of cardboard identifying themselves as homeless.

Most of us turn away or pass by. Calvin Manson asks us to reconsider those actions.

Manson, artistic director of Ira Aldridge Repertory Theatre, is a poet in his own right. “I Read a Man Today” is one of them. The company’s new show – a dramatic reading of some of Manson’s poems – is titled “Poetical: Not To Be Played On The Radio” and plays through Aug. 25 at the Educational Cultural Complex.

Five actors (Janice Edwards, Vimel Sephus, Tamela M. Cross, Kimberly King, Jackie Clark), ranged in front of a “wall” of several art works by local artist Jean Cornwell Wheat, read about 25 poems touching on subjects such as bullying, domestic violence and racial profiling.

“Can poetry hurt us?” asks a child of her teacher. “Can you teach me to remember my mama?” asks another in “I Bring Them Poetry.”

The teacher (Clark) notes that “this is the first time Nicole has admitted that her mother is gone. Murder by a slim needle and a stranger riffling through her blood, the virus pushing her skeleton through for Nicole to see.”

“Poem for Sam” (read by Sephus) recalls the black athletes who made their black power statement with raised fists on the podium of the Mexico City Olympics and ends with “I will speak for us who no longer can.”

The heartbreaking “Pain Passing” (read by Edwards) was inspired by a news story about a woman who burst into a California courtroom and shot her 8-year-old daughter’s accused rapist, who was about to go on trial.

Bullying is the topic of “Stick and Stone,” read effectively by Kimberly King: “You couldn’t tell Natasha that name-calling hurts less than broken bones.”

This is an unusual and affecting program, the spoken word accompanied by gestures, music and movement.

Most of the poems are very strong; a few could be cut, as the show is a little long.

Most of the poems are very strong, as were most of the opening-night performances. There was a bit of tentativeness here and there, which I’m sure has been remedied.

Women will like the ending: “This poem goes out to every woman who refused to be defined.”

The details

“Poetical: Not To Be Played On The Radio” plays through Aug.25 at the Educational Cultural Complex, 4343 Ocean View Blvd.

Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2:30 pm.

Tickets: (619) 283-4574 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.