The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings










See links at top of our Main Page







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review

"God, you are so white" - Thomas to Andie
Burl Moseley and Bruce Nozick (Photo:John Perrin Flynn)
Two teens square off in a one-on-one basketball match that is part dance, part rumble, and positively balletic. The bout concluded, one pulls off his shoe, brandishes it like a pistol, and hisses "Sup now!" We jump quickly to the boardroom of the athletic shoe manufacturing company that made the commercial we have just witnessed, and Greg Kalleres's in-your-face drama Honky is officially locked and loaded.

Equal parts satire and sociology, this very deft play tilts and pivots, keeping an audience both laughing and emotionally off-guard. In presenting the play's Los Angeles premiere, the consistently high-class Rogue Machine Theatre has another winner. Gregg T. Daniel's production at the Met Theatre is not to be missed.

Kalleres creates a quintet of characters who are so pretzeled up in conundrums of racial correctness, there seems little hope of any escape for them. . . or any of us. Fortunately for the Honky folks at least, a researcher named Driscoll has engineered a pill designed to eliminate medically those inconvenient, intolerant impulses. The pill comes with some interesting side effects, but isn't the possibility of having a castigating Frederick Douglass in your kitchen worth the risk?

The playwright seems to think so and wow, do some of theHonky people need some heavy doses of Driscotol. Davis Tallison (played by Bruce Nozick), the president of the urban shoe company Sky Max, can barely put two sentences together without getting under someone's skin. Since Sky Max is being eyed by Nike for a possible acquisition, Davis's foot-in-mouth disease is problematic, and he'll need some sensitivity training. His subordinate, Thomas Hodge (Burl Moseley), a young, well-educated black man, must deal with the fact that black teens are shooting each other to acquire the shoes he designed. His sister, Emilia, (Inger Tudor), is a therapist who listens to people confessing all manner of guilt. She claims race plays no part in her work, but it kind of does.

The circle widens then tightens. Emilia's latest client, Peter Trammel (James Liebman), wrote the incendiary Sky Max commercial that has blacks and whites alike quite literally up in arms. Working through all kinds of guilt, Peter can't quite figure out whether to insult his therapist or fall in love with her. Then there's Peter's fiancee, Andie (Tasha Amos), a privileged US>-magazine-reading blonde whose obliviousness to Peter's racial angst ("Killing people for shoes. What is this, the ‘80s?") has him reconsidering the marriage. But in Kelleres's tricky universe, Andie may not be the dim bulb we expect her to be. All of the characters defy cultural expectations, including a couple of kids (Matthew Hancock and Christian Henley) who keep appearing on the subway in different incarnations during encounters with Davis, Peter, and Thomas.

Back in the early 2000s, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx wrote a fairly ingenious song for the musical Avenue Q titled "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist." Honky accepts the premise of that song and one-ups it, effectively arguing that commercialism and racism are not only linked but potentially necessary bedfellows. Or maybe that's the argument of a person trying to prove he is not a racist. Kelleres leaves the question open, but where sensitive language is considered, clearly there's no cure-all pill.

Regardless, under Daniel's direction, Honky is crisp, deeply funny and splendidly acted. As Peter and Thomas, Liebman and Moseley shrewdly play out two different sides of the same set of neuroses. Both are comically gifted and convincing basket cases. Nozick steers Davis, the unapologetic company man, away from villainy. His arguments are weirdly and unapologetically compelling, and you have no difficulty believing the man could sell a bunch of shoes.

Facing the effects of both Peter's neuroses and the effects of the drug Driscotol, Tudor's Emilia displays some remarkable composure. How she keeps herself from throwing Peter out of her office during their first scene together is a feat. Hancock and Henley do some seriously artful double duty as every stereotypical representatives of urban youth one could imagine. Hancock's depiction of a foul-mouthed, aesthetically finicky Douglass is a riot.

The play's shining star is Ames. Artless, vulnerable and possessed of great comic timing, the actress makes Andie Honky's unlikely heroine. In a world gone topsy-turvy, the person who can deftly shove all the "heavy stuff" aside may be the one who doesn't need Dirscotol after all. Imagine that.

Honky by Greg Kalleres
Directed by Gregg T. Daniel
Cast: Tasha Ames, Ron Bottitta, Matthew Hancock, Christian Henley, James Liebman, Burl Moseley, Bruce Nozick, Inger Tudor
Scenic Design: Stephanie Kerley Schwartz
Lighting Design: Dan Weingarten
Sound Design: Jeff Gardner
Video/Projection Design: Nicholas E. Santiago
Choreographer: Eliana Fuller
Production Manager: Amanda Mauer
Technical Director: David A. Mauer
Stage Manager: Ramon Valdez
Plays through June 12, 2016 at the Met Theater, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles. (855) 585-5185,
Running time: One hour and thirty-five minutes, with no intermission
Reviewed by Evan Henerson
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Honky
  • I disagree with the review of Honky
  • The review made me eager to see Honky
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
The New Similes Dictionary
New Similes Dictionary

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free

Anything Goes Cast Recording Anything Goes Cast Recording
Our review of the show

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show

©Copyright 2016, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from