nytheatre.com review by Amber Gallery
August 19, 2010
The title of high five refers to the country's first five-level stack interchange which was built in Dallas, Texas in 2002. The production of high five at the Cherry Pit centers around a family's struggle with giving up their home and its history to the project's developers.
From what I could gather in this sparsely written play, the Baxter family—mother Abigail, father Pastor Percival Baxter Sr., and children Percival Jr. and Lucille—settled in this new ill-fated shotgun house after a violent run in with some racists who bombed their former home. Lucille and Percival Jr. were young then and have spent most of their lives in this house.
The play begins with Lucille and Percival Jr. as adults, their parents since deceased and speaking only in flashback. While Percival Jr. has made a career for himself—actually working on the Dallas interchange project—Lucille has chosen to remain in the house. We learn she lived there with her boyfriend or husband after their parents' death, who took ill and also died. Hers is a lonely existence on many fronts—she is the only one who has refused to sell to the big bad developers, so there is no real neighborhood left; only the passing cars on the completed portion of the highways and the work still being done surround her. Life is truly passing her by and she will not give up her home, despite the substantial financial deal and new home Percival Jr. has worked out for her.
Lucille will only speak to her azaleas and threatens anyone who comes near her home, including her brother, with a shotgun. Her existence is focused on her azaleas and her "training" to fight if anyone attempts to remove her from the home by force.
While Lucille could be a fascinating character study, and the subject matter is timely, playwright Angela Hanks just misses on the opportunity to create a fully realized play. It is difficult to understand what is really keeping Lucille to the home—with all the bad memories that exist there for her and the possible dangers to her health from the surrounding construction, the short run time does not allow her to make her case fully. The play ends very awkwardly—I thought the lights went out by mistake in the middle of what was shaping up to be a captivating exchange, but when the actors came out for their bows, I was left wondering why Hanks chose to end the play in the middle of the conflict. Neither Lucille nor Percival changes their perspective in any way and the play seems to end where it began.
LaChrishna C. Brown as Lucille and Kiel Perry as Percival Jr. both do fine work. Brown possesses a quality that is likeable and makes it difficult to simply write Lucille off as crazy and misguided. Perry makes a nice transition from Percival Jr. as a man to the more vulnerable child version. William Jackson Harper and Kianne Muschett as the father and mother respectively are both very strong actors and underused here. It would have been nice to see the entire family interact in one of the flashbacks instead of constantly keeping them in separate scenes. In a clever and poignant choice by Hanks, Harper and Muschett double as the voices of Lucille's azaleas and both bring some nice comic relief to the evening.