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LA Theater Review

Watermelon -- Git It While It's Hot!!!

Were "Cece" Antoinette sitting across the kitchen table from me telling me these stories over coffee, I'd be the first the say, "You need to put this into a show!" I would expect the show, however, to look a little bit better than this, as Antoinette seems to be an engaging person with a penchant for storytelling. Putting those stories on the stage has stymied her, though. What enticed me to attend in the first place is that it's directed by Joyce Guy, an actor whose one-woman show If I Knew Then..., which I caught six years ago, is still one of the most theatrically transcendent pieces I've ever seen. I figured Guy was clearly a person who knows the genre well, so how bad can it be? The answer is: pretty bad.

The show opens with the decidedly unengaging, "Here I am at the Hamilton Park picnic." Hamilton Park, a Dallas community built for black people and with streets named after famous black people, sounds like a cross between a theme park and Soweto (her sweet-16 party ends in gunplay, but nothing more is said of this). This little social construct isn't even the point, though. No, Antoinette's focus is getting in touch with her goddess-self and her genitals (the watermelon of the title, an analogy that lacks the poetry of "rubyfruit jungle," and when it gets to the point where Antoinette dwells on the fate of old produce, well, never mind). I don't know if Antoinette has missed the past decade of empowered-woman shows or what, but she's bringing nothing to the table except a new euphemism. The structure is simple enough: story, lesson, repeat. Often the lesson seems to have no relation to the story, and the script is so overstuffed one often forgets there's a point being made at all. The character work is either under- or overdone. Under is preferable. Gold-toothed Jody, the "backdoor man," involves hairpieces and prosthetic teeth, and the result is repulsive, hard to understand, and, when he starts pulling Tootsie Pops out of a Crown Royal bag and tossing them into the house, bizarre. Antoinette's quest to get in touch with her goddess is to be admired, even if the time to share it has passed. What she very much needs to get in touch with, though, is a good editor.

Presented by Plumeings Production in association with and at the Theatre District, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m. Aug. 4-Sep. 10. (323) 957-2343.

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