"Cuzzins," the current offering from the Rep. Inc. Children's Summer Theatre Workshop, bristles with youthful energy, good intentions, important messages and wise caricatures of country and city situations.
The play, written by Art Jones and directed by Jaye Stewart, deals with the suddenly close encounters of cousins who overcome their deeply rooted preconceptions of what life is like on the other side of the mountain. Most of the action takes place in a Washington, D.C., that owes much to "Guys and Dolls" and "The Electric Company." The dance segments, choreographed by Sadiqa Pettaway, are a bit rougher but not much different from what can be found in any of the recent jazz musicals that have passed through town. The reward of seeing 10-year-olds going through the steps is something else again.
The two dozen or so participants in the Workshop range in age from 6 to 16, but some of the younger cast members (Kevin Crutchfield and Darryl Williams as macho boys, in particular) carry themselves with a confidence far beyond their years. The two major roles -- country bumpkin Juanita and city slicker Alexandria -- are admirably filled by Amira Pettaway and Deirdra Johnson, respectively. Pettaway is a wonderfully sinuous presence whose only drawback is a tendency to overdo the rural accent; Pettaway's broad gestures and expressive features are a delight. Johnson is wise and sensitive to her "cuzzin's needs, protecting her and leading her to understand in the end that "nobody is better, just different."
The Workshop's conception of life in the city, its ability to gently mimic adult behavior in discos, restaurants and on the streets, keeps "Cuzzins' light enough for children, while the frequent dance routines with delight adults. "Cuzzins" will be performed the next two Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. at The Rep Inc., 3710 Georgia Ave. NW. There are two casts drawn from one company of enthusiastic players. For information, call 291-3903.