nytheatre.com review by Lee Ramsey
UGLy is a very innovative and powerful new theatre piece written
by Nels'on Ellis. Based on a true story; the play is about Alice Marie,
a young black woman trapped in an abusive relationship, who is killed by
her boyfriend, Spoke, in front of her eight year old son.
August 15, 2003
The crisp dialogue alternates between beautiful poetry and harsh street talk. The action is at the same time stylized and realistic. Spoken text is interspersed with music and song. UGLy is sixty tightly constructed minutes of extremely interesting contradiction.
A talented and powerful cast under the very capable direction of Cedric Harris bring the story vividly and unflinchingly to life. Ayodele Casel is particularly good as Yvonne, Alice Marie's strong willed sister; and as the tragic couple, Dawn-Lyen Gardner (a strong actress with a beautiful singing voice) and Charles Parnell are wonderful. The only casting mistake seems to be having an adult actor to play their eight-year-old son Little Leon. It isn't the actor's fault, but having an adult play this role makes the character appear to be a retarded man instead of a frightened child. I think using a real child would take the production to even deeper and more disturbing levels.
The lighting design by Chuck Cameron is very effective especially considering the technical limitations of FringeNYC. The play also features a wonderful on-stage band (Eleonore Oppenheim, Elias Guzman, Kwaku Payton, and Yasef Manzano) and two lovely vocalists (Christine Clemmons and Letha Rose). The cast also features: Lizan Mitchell, Bonita Oliver, and Jesse Roche.