Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"Tell It! Grandma" is an imaginative work with music and dance being offered by the local Independent Art Ensemble at the Howard Theater through Sunday.
The play is set in the year 2025 and examines the possibilities of intergalactic peace and brotherhood after an "Awakening" has occurred on Earth. Although Earth has undergone a spiritual transformation complete with the elimination of wars, racism, poverty and social institutions, other planets in the galaxy are still plagued by these problems. "Grandma" - the central character - is actually a young woman who acquired her title because of her penchant for telling stories of the "Awakening" to children in her neighborhood. My only complaint is that director-author Kevin Johnson doesn't explain to us how this Transformation/Awakening takes place.
The first impulse is to dismiss this as another play about Nirvana and paradise regained. However, the powerful ending paints such a realistic portrait of our reaction to these worthy ideals that the viewer is stunned by the acceptance of his own cynicism as "normal."
It is unfortunate that the Howard's promotion budget for this play is not substantially larger. "Tell It! Grandma" is one of the better acted, directed and costumed offerings of the local alternative theater season. The original music by director Kevin Johnson and his collaborators Zwa Nick Prue and Mike Jones is lively and captures the space atmosphere and gospel spiritualism that are both central to the play.
"Grandma" would be an excellent entry for the Kennedy Center's Theater Laboratory repertory.