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Waitin’ 2 End Hell

<i>Waitin’ 2 End Hell</i> explores the divorce epidemic in black communities.

Waitin’ 2 End Hell explores the divorce epidemic in black communities.

Rated 3.0

William Parker must like playing with fire, because he sure does a lot of it in Waitin’ 2 End Hell.

Parker—who wrote the script, directed the production and plays the male lead—starts lighting matches in the presence of a combustible issue in the very first scene. As several black friends gather for dessert and champagne, the conversation wanders onto a topic guaranteed to raise somebody’s blood pressure: Is the man the head of the family (and the wife’s superior), as the Bible seems to suggest?

Parker sets out this lively debate in black conversational vernacular, a form of American speech we don’t hear often on local stages. It’s safe to say that Parker is on a mission in this regard: His goal is producing black plays and attracting black audiences. “I thank you for allowing me to be black without apology,” he writes in his program notes.

Through a series of escalating statements at the party, Parker deals with the questions of male dominance and female equality (or independence). Then the focus shifts to a conversation among the women, mirrored afterward by a frank exchange between the men (with frequent usage of the N-word, which you can’t say on most radio stations).

Parker shows good style with dialogue, both as a writer and an actor. I also liked Darnell Todd (a rookie actor), as a man who’s sometimes found himself on the wrong side of love and the law, and likewise Jarel Todd, who shows a cool gaze as the third side of a love triangle.

La Donna White heads up the female side of the cast, playing the wife of Parker’s character and getting in one particularly dramatic scene about her character’s childhood. Malika Perkins plays a temptress.

The script was previously staged at California State University, Sacramento, and has been revised since. Though the story begins as a provocative polemic, it morphs into a cautionary tale about what can go wrong with marriage. By the end, it’s become a melodrama. However, a good melodrama can hold your attention and score points, and this one does.

Parker’s script is a roughly hewn piece of dramatic architecture, and the sophistication of the acting is varied. But this modestly mounted production has several scenes that are quite enjoyable and displays strength in style, confidence and conviction. It’s worth seeking out.