The talent of Oscar Brown Jr., the lyricist-composer-performer, has more faces than Eve. He can be tender, biting, indignant, touching and uproariously funny.
An unpretentiously mounted musical revue, "Faces of Brown," now is brightening the hot summer evenings five times a week at the Last Hurrah, a disco on the edge of Georgetown on 22nd Street between O and P Streets NW.
It is a joint enterprise between the Harlequin Dinner Theatre and the Last Hurrah to fill the empty hours before the late-night disco flashes into operation.
However the joint venture works out for the two partners, "Faces of Brown" does have its moments as a cabaret-style revue. Brown, who has a witty sense of rhyme in his lyrics and can be touching as well as satirical, is a performer with presence and personal style.
The show, which opened last week and still is a big ragged and unpaced, has to settle for minimal stage and mounting at the disco. But Brown, with his three-musician backup and four other performers, makes the most of the facilities.
Brown, who has been based in Chicago, is familiar on the Washington scene. He has appeared at the Cellar Door and most recently was at Harambee House. After flirting with Broadway with musicals like "Joy" and "Kick & Co.," he backed off for the freedom of cabaret-style revues.
The "Faces of Brown" are many indeed. There is the tenderness of "Brown Baby," so familiar and yet so hauntingly tender when sung by Brown's wife, Jean Pace, another performer with Cellar Door memories. From "Brown Baby" and "Love Is Like a Newborn Child," Brown can switch to the hilarious and earthy-textured "No Roaches." He slithers and hisses sibilants as "The Snake" who talks its way to a woman's bosom."R'lly," the plaint of a man catting at a bar and getting a one-word putdown, is wickedly witty.
Brown also draws material from the black experience, and there is both a wry humor and anger to his lyrics. He often uses the street vernacular of urban blacks to drive home a point.
The idea to stage the "Faces of Brown" came from an old friendship reaching back 15 years to Chicago. Nicholas Howel, co-owner and producer of the Harlequin Dinner theatre in Rockville, a remembered Brown's work as a producer of musicals and talked about a show at the dinner theater.
The offshoot is the cabaret-style revue at the Last Hurrah. Later this year, the Harlequin plans a one-night-a-week show drawing on Brown's talents as a songwriter and lyricist. There will by songs for each month and season to make up "The Year."
Edna Long and Ernie Green, co-owners of the Last Hurrah, decided to try double-shift performances with Brown's revue preceding their late-night disco programs.
"Some of the disco crowd have never seen a cabaret-type live show. They catch the tail-end and get a taste for it," Long says.
"Faces of Brown" runs five nights a week through Aug. 12, with one performance at 9:30 on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and two performances, at 8:30 and 10:30, on Friday and Saturday.