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LA Theater Review

Man Kind (and Unkind)

Guided by Mariclare Costello's fast-paced, seamless direction and supported by Mimi McCloy's nifty sound design, writer-performer Vanessa Whitney delivers a veritable homage to the men in her life and the knowledge she gained from them. Her terrific one-woman show, complete with a couple of rousing raps and some deft tap-dancing, opens with a thunderous recording of Wagner's "Flight of the Valkyries"—Whitney's favorite song and emblematic of the classical music her father inspired her to love. Her dad, a high school music teacher and musician-turned–guidance counselor, was the first man she knew and her most important male influence. He taught her about music and became her first dance instructor. She lovingly recounts his compassion, his willingness to listen, and the lesson he taught her that a man can put his family first.

She talks, sings, and dances us through the stages of her life. This is her story, from her point of view, and she regales us with funny and occasionally poignant anecdotes about her relationships with Rod, Tom, Bill, Charles, Derrick, and the other guys she's liked, lusted after, or loved. But regardless of the outcome, she credits them with teaching her life lessons, as she passed from grade school into adulthood. Her storytelling also includes her struggles, fears, and memories of dreary day jobs, including a stint at a mortuary, as well as a lesson about emotional limits. Finally, she revisits the traumatic death of her cousin and offers up a touching and heartfelt eulogy to his memory.

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