Naima Dawson is a published author, Chicago playwright, and professor. Her career accomplishments cover more than 20 years in Arts Entertainment. Her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and her Master of Education from DePaul University solidifies her ability to bridge the two worlds between Arts and Education. She is the writer and producer of Your Call! Late Night Improv & Sketch Comedy for Grown Folks, as seen in production at the Apollo Theater and The Mercury Theater.
Pictured (l-r): Eric A. Lewis, Darrian Ford, James Earl Jones II, Lorenzo Rush, Jr., and Kevin Roston, Jr. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
By Naima Dawson
Clarke Peters’ FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE, evoking so much positive energy and excitement, is an excellent kickoff to the season at Court Theater. Director Ron OJ Parson and Associate Director Felicia P. Fields have done a magnificent job breathing new life to this well-known collection of Louis Jordan songs in a way that is beyond entertaining and engaging.
The play opens on Nomax (played to perfection by Stephen Allen) down on his relationship luck, trying to drown his woes in liquor and those late night love tunes that seem to always speak directly to a broken heart. The appropriately named “Early in the Morning” sets the tone for the shenanigans that will unfold throughout the show. Filled with self-pity and looking to blame anyone but himself for his relationship troubles, Nomax’s radio suddenly comes to life when five guys gleefully pop out to help him solve his love problems, sharing songs that speak to their years of experience with women.
Music is always going to be the fortune cookie to a heavy soul. How many times have we all crawled deep into the lyrics and rhythm of a song in hopes to escape the reality of our truths? Only the song won’t let us run away too far, as it becomes the vessel that snaps life back into those dark days and gives guidance to our misdirection. It’s this fundamental truth that is the ticking heart of FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE.
The five Moes are some of Chicago’s leading male actors, who’s collective vocal gymnastics are well on display in Court’s production. There is Little Moe, played by Darrin Ford, a crooner that can make shingles on a rooftop shimmy. There is Kelvin Roston Jr.’s Four-Eyed Moe, who’s voice dances with the piano in the spirit of a young Nat King Cole. Eric A. Lewis brings vocal pizzazz with all the dance moves to No Moe. Watching Lewis perform is like a tag team of Fred Astaire and the Nicholas Brothers. Then there is Eat Moe, played by James Earl Jones II, who brings the funny with his character’s animation, musicality, and texture. Finally, Big Moe – Lorenzo Rush, Jr. – radiates with his larger than life persona and deep, effortless vocals.
Music Director Abdul Hamid Royal manages to make sure that sounds from the band fill the entire theater, working hard to make the audience feel as though they are right on stage with the Moes. Also, hats off to Courtney O’Neil for the creative stage design — another layer to this thrilling production.
FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE captures the power of music in a way that will hit home with an audience that takes part in making it a night to remember. Yes, the story is simple, but the message is grand. We need to smile and laugh more at life, and this play allows us to do just that amongst friends and strangers.
FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE runs through October 8th. For more information visit CourtTheatre.org.