You should be ‘off to see the Wizard! Yes, as of today, you have two more weekends left to see the ball of musical and energetic storytelling called ‘The Wizard of Hip (Or When in Doubt, Slam Dunk), brought to you by MetroStage in Alexandria, VA.
Let both the title both confuse and intrigue you just enough to find out what Thomas W. Jones II (writer, director, main character and choreographer of this piece) really has up his soulful sleeves.
Jones plays ‘Afro Jo,’ a vulnerable and boisterous, yet very lovable man giving lively firsthand accounts of his journey from youth to adulthood. Much relatable, these stories of trial and triumph come packaged in comedy, groovy tunes and dialogue that only a master story-teller like Jones can deliver.
The grooving started from the very beginning. Complete with its very own yellow brick road of rhythm and culture, the old school dancing and vibe takes you back to your own journey from childhood (or early adulthood depending on your age) and leaves you there to play for a while.
And play indeed! Your time is spent giving honor to all things hip, or maybe seeing the ‘hipness’ in the regular things in life – depending on how you view it. Early topics range from attending church as a kid, to Jones’ favorite sport of basketball and even his dealings with acne. The topic of being 13 years old and the life and body changes, was one of my favorite ‘numbers.’ Jones also tackles mothers and motherhood and how we can both love them and not like them very much, simultaneously. His recount of being mothered included the hipness of multi-tasking, the familiar sayings we can all relate to and the strength that mothers all share.
Fathers weren’t left out either. In his own creative way, Jones shared how fathers can be both men of steel and toward their sons and then go to being complete softies with their daughters – leaving both scares and hugs along the way.
The second part of the play has Afro Jo going to college and experiencing the part of manhood that relates to exploring intimacy. This light adult content was done in a non-offensive way and the story of manhood to fatherhood to legacy was nothing but hipness.
One of the more interesting facts is that ‘Wizard’ was once a one-man show with popularity that allowed it to be toured in more than 30 cities. It’s easy to view this rendition as a one-man show with backups, but the performances of the two singers/actors Jasmine Eileen Coles and Kanysha Williams are so memorable, fresh and seamless that you will quickly see they are more than that. I loved them. From their voices, timely comedic inserts and facial expressions of emotion, they added brilliance to this piece and I cannot imagine it being the same without them.
I attended with a small crowd (about 12 people) that packed the energy of one twice its size. While not sure why the ticket sales haven’t matched the positive reviews received, and more personally, the experience one gets… those who do not take the opportunity to see the play are missing out on an experience. And that is something only the “Wizard” can fix. As a personal aside, it’s important to support small theater and also theater that allows the art and stories of people of color. I do hope others will spend their weekends here and bring friends!
The Wizard of Hip (or When in Doubt Slam Dunk), by Thomas W. Jones II. Original music by William Knowles. Set design, Carl Gudenius and Shuxing Fan; light, Alexander Keen; costumes, Michael Sharp; sound, Gordon Nimmo-Smith; projections, Robbie Hayes. Two hours with one intermission. Through Sept. 17 at MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria. $55-$60. 703-548-9044. http://www.metrostage.org.