The Daughters of the Kush
Reviewed by Lovell Estell III
Stella Adler Theatre
Through October 29
A young white coed who aspired to join a historically black sorority mysteriously dies, prompting an investigation by campus police.
Set in a small Iowa college during the social upheavals of 1963, much of what transpires in George Corbin’s drama is sadly relevant to these polarized times. Clara (Vanoy Burnough) Rhonda (Alisa Murray) and Brenda (Dee Dee Stephens), the officers of the Lambda Kappa Nu Sorority, aka “The Daughters of the Kush,” are first seen under interrogation by Sgt. Diggs (Mack Miles) about the recent death of their pledge.
The narrative then backtracks as we are introduced to the personable Kathy (Hannah Mae Sturges). Adopted by a black family as a teenager, she embraces African-American culture and is not ill at ease around black people. First seen as a curiosity, she gradually finds an ally in Rhonda, who sponsors her to join the sorority.
But jealousy and bigotry intrude by way of Clara, who has some complicated issues with white people, stemming from the fact that her light skin and Anglo features are the result of an affair her mother had with a white man. Adding to her pique is Kathy’s relationship with Barry (Brandon Raines), Clara’s track coach, whom Clara attempts to seduce.
Corbin does a convincing job of sketching the particulars and peculiars of sorority life, but some scenes are too brief, ineffective, and don’t propel the narrative. The pivotal element in Clara and Kathy’s volatile relationship, replete with so much irony, should have been explored with more sophistication and depth; in fact, the play would have had more resonance had the inner lives of these characters been scripted with greater clarity. Clara and Kathy’s ill-fated confrontation towards the end doesn’t hold much of a surprise. There is undeniable substance to the plot here, but this script needs a careful rewrite. Director Veronica Thompson draws convincing performances from the cast, which includes Paris Nicole and Conor Sheehan.
Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Oct. 29. (213) 908-5032 or http://corbinkush.eventbrite.com Running time: two hours with one ten-minute intermission.