Tuesday, May 26, 2009
'Zanna Don’t' at Actor’s Express is a Do
Imagine living life as a heterosexual in a homosexual world. “Zanna Don’t,” now playing at Actor’s Express in Atlanta, shows us what it could be like if our sexual preference were outside the norm.
Playwright Tim Acito skillfully shows us what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes. In a land of upside down living, he takes us to a place where chess players are studs, football players are geeks, and heterosexuality is an anomaly.
It’s all done tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a fun show with light, catchy pop tunes reminiscent of those in “Little Shop of Horrors.”
The story revolves around a group of students at Heartsville High and their searches for love. With a wave of his magical wand, Zanna, a Cupid-like sprite, casts spells upon the boys and girls as they descry possible mates. But alas, even Zanna cannot stop true love when the unexpected happens: a boy and a girl, each already in a relationship with another of their same sex, fall for each other. To the couple’s dismay, no matter how hard they try to stay away from each other, they can’t stop the magnetic force between them.
Although the story takes place at a high school where kids rebel against the establishment in the heartland of America, that’s about as close as it gets to other high school musicals like “Grease” and “Hairspray.” All right, “Hairspray” takes on the topic of racial equality and “Zanna Don’t” covers homosexual equality, but thankfully, “Zanna Don’t” is a lot more subtle. It doesn’t preach about equality, nor does it throw in a gratuitous, over-the-top drag queen to catch our attention. It does, however, have a fairy of sorts, Zanna, played by Ricardo Aponte.
Unfortunately, upon the show’s opening, Aponte played the role like a true “fairy.” He could have been more interesting had he chosen to play his character as a stronger being. When he finally stopped his fey ways and his mugging for the audience, in one of his final solo tunes he belted out from his heart, Some Day You Might Love Me. That is the moment when his passion and inner light sparkled far brighter than the sequined top and red pumps he closed the show in.
The play is good and the music is a fun mixture of pop, blues, and doo-wop, with catchy tunes such as I Ain’t Got Time and Whatcha Got. The show features a live band and notable performances from Erin Lorette as Roberta, Caitlin Smith as Kate, and Jimi Kocina as Mike.
“Zanna Don’t,” book, music and lyrics by Tim Acito with help from Alexander Dinelaris, has played Off Broadway, around the country, and currently is playing in London and at Actor’s Express in Atlanta, where it is running through June 20.
Photo: Eric Hermann