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The Ballad of Klook and Vinette

a Musical
by Che Walker (book) and Anoushka Lucas and Omar Lyefook (songs)

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 5226

SHOWING : January 19, 2018 - February 18, 2018



Klook is a drifter who’s tired of drifting. Vinette is on the run but she doesn’t know what’s chasing her. Together, they make a tentative stab at love and reach for hope until the past catches up to the future and smacks it in the face. Tough, tender, funny, poignant, "The Ballad of Klook and Vinette" will grab you from the inside out. Horizon kicks off its 2018 season with this love story set against poetry and jazz in its highly anticipated American premiere. Soulful music combined with a witty, moving story makes this a mesmerizing theater experience.

Vinette Brittany Inge
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Poetic Ballad
by playgoer
Sunday, February 11, 2018
Has "ballad" in the name of a play become synonymous with "sad ending?" That’s certainly the case with "The Ballad of Klook and Vinette." We know from the start that the story will end with bloodshed and gunfire, as Klook (Amari Chéatom) sings of his memories of the story that is about to unfold. Then we go through his meeting and life with Vinette (Brittany Inge), leading up to that fatal moment.

Klook and Vinette are odd creatures, speaking with Ebonic grammar and an erudite vocabulary. Klook is a drifter and grifter with multiple jail stints who works as the maintenance man at a pool. Vinette is a single mother who has left her child with her mother and gone off on her own with no apparent plan. She meets Klook at a health bar and they move in together. Through song and dialogue, we learn about them and about Howard, the creepy pool manager. Vinette eventually becomes a successful writer of short stories through the sacrifices of Klook.

This is a bare-bones telling of their story, with only two stools as props, two actors in the roles of Klook and Vinette, and two musicians (Christian Magby on piano and Maurice Figgins on bass and guitar). The set, designed by the ubiquitous Curley-Clay sisters, consists of two wall segments that look a bit like skewed stacks of planks, one stage left with a doorway and one stage right behind the band, plus a huge Venetian blind construction center stage that arches downward. (The script tells us that gunshots were fired through Venetian blinds.) What provides the most visual interest is Mary Parker’s splendid lighting design, which combines Bobby Johnston’s projections with effects that heighten the action.

Rob Brooksher’s sound design keeps everything audible, and music director Christian Magby has ensured that we have a good-sounding soundscape, which consists of vamp-like musical figures and song snippets as much as full songs in a jazz vein. There’s not complete consistency of speech patterns between the almost-rhyming song lyrics of Anoushka Lucas & Omar Lyefook and the high-falutin’ words of Ché Walker’s poetic script that uses "firestick" as the term for a gun. It’s the type of show that requires that it cast its unique spell over the audience to keep them involved throughout, and it largely succeeds in that task.

Costumes by Dr. L. Nyrobi Moss are fine, with little variety until the end of the play. Ché Walker’s direction includes blocking that goes up the center aisle into the audience and occasionally involves the band members. Nicole Johnson’s choreography consists primary of the two actors circling around each other on the carpeted floor or lying in provocative positions, with a few bumps and grinds in one of Vinette’s numbers. The movement is active, but can be a bit repetitious.

Kathryn Muse is listed as props master, but the script specifically states that the only props are two stools. This seems to be the case of a staff position being filled unnecessarily for this production. Horizon Theatre Company has brought the artistic team from England and L.A. to work on this show, so it seems the money saved on cast salaries has been spent in different directions. "The Ballad of Klook and Vinette" is a small show with modest production values, but it fills the intimate space at Horizon Theatre nicely, highlighting fine performances by its two stars and an amazing lighting design by Mary Parker. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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