REVIEW: Front Porch Arts Collective serves up a spirited and resonating ‘Chicken and Biscuits’
‘Family is a loaded word.’
Spoken by one of the characters in Chicken and Biscuits by Douglas Lyons, this statement perfectly encompasses the essence of this spirited family dramedy. The holidays tend to bring out family dysfunction in rare form and Front Porch Arts Collective has it covered with Chicken and Biscuits delivered just in time for the holidays on December 9.
Judgment is passed at every angle and tensions run high as one family must reunite for a funeral honoring the family patriarch. As Jacqui Parker as Baneatta’s opening scene suggests, the power of prayer may be the only way for this family to get through this complicated day.
Hosted by Suffolk University, Front Porch Arts Collective ventured into their first solo show in residence with The Huntington with Chicken and Biscuits at the Modern Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts through January 8. Directed reflectively by Lyndsay Allyn Cox, Chicken and Biscuits is one hour and 45 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Everyone is part of the congregation in Modern Theatre’s modest sized theatre without a bad seat in the house. Set inside a sunlit church in Connecticut, one of the beautiful highlights of Erik D. Diaz’s transformative set design include the tree lined and then colorful stained glass windows with authentic hanging sanctuary lamps. Anna Drummond’s dynamic sound design lent to the heart and humor of the production while M. Berry’s exceptional lighting varied from somber to uplifting and every mood in between as revelations unfold. With fine details by Earon Chew Neasley, Zoe Sundra’s striking costumes which includes dignified hats varying from elegant to over the top, embellish each character’s distinct personalities. Prop master Lauren Corcuera’s intricate details completed the hospitable atmosphere, especially those homestyle chicken and biscuits.
Though this production delves into grief and family dysfunction, it also delivers a wealth of high spirited comedy and stirring moments from a cast of vibrant characters. It does not take long to grasp that Father and Grandfather Bernard Jenkins was the glue that held this family together. His loss has touched each family member in a unique way while a few of the family members have their own unique ideas on how to celebrate his life.
Filled with quiet consternation, Jacqui Parker portrays compelling Baneatta who is just barely holding it together as she and her optimistic and charismatic husband Robert Cornelius as Reverend Reginald Mabry prepare to attend the service. Baneatta has a unique effect on each family member and Parker carries that aura with a certain gravitas. Though she and her husband appear to be opposites, Cornelius and Parker are impressive as a longtime married couple comfortable with each other’s idiosyncrasies. Cornelius has a natural charisma and delivers a particularly noteworthy and powerful performance as easygoing Reginald, especially as he addresses the congregation with a rousing sermon.
From her razor red fingernails to her curve hugging blue dress, Thomika Bridwell depicts outrageous and outspoken hairstylist Beverly Jenkins with Lorraine Kanyike as La’Trice Franklin, Beverly’s smirking aspiring rapper daughter, not far behind. Bridwell and Kanyike’s snappy comedic dialogue and chemistry make for some ludicrous and entertaining moments as they proudly march to the sound of their very own drummer. Fiercely protective and flirtatious, Beverly’s scene stealing personality is a force to be reckoned with while Kanyike, in a pleather vest and revealing pants, exudes La’trice’s confident, attention seeking demeanor which also contains a grain of insightful teenage wisdom.
Mishka Yarovoy delivers an empathetic and endearing performance as Logan, who longs for as little as the family getting his name right and Adrian Peguero as conflicted Kenny mourns a grandfather who understood him best. However, Sabrina Lynne Sawyer stands out in a stellar performance as serious, distinguished, and multi-faceted Simone who struggles and strives for perfection.
Anxiety, gossip, bickering, and a few surprises are inevitable at most family gatherings whether it is on a holiday, a family reunion, or even at a family funeral. Chicken and Biscuits, named after Bernard’s favorite meal, can also provide comfort, grace, and love as long as everyone can sit together, take a breath, and listen.
Hosted by Suffolk University, Front Porch Arts Collective ventured into their first solo show in residence with The Huntington with Chicken and Biscuits at the Modern Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts through January 8. Click here for more information and for tickets.