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FAT HAM

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In FAT HAM, Juicy (Marcel Spears) is a sensitive soul just trying to graduate from the University of Phoenix and navigate the goings-on of his exuberantly crass family. Juicy’s father Pap (Billy Eugene Jones) was recently murdered in prison and Tedra, Juicy’s mother (Nikki Crawford), is celebrating her marriage to her late husband’s brother Rev (Jones) with a backyard barbecue. Joining the party are Tedra’s friend Rabby (Benja Kay Thomas) and her adult children Opal (Adrianna Mitchell) and Larry (Matthew Elijah Webb). Dismissed by his family as “soft” and unserious (“You go to college on your phone !”), Juicy—under pressure from Pap’s ghost to kill Rev—accepts whatever emotional support is available from his stoner buddy Tio (Chris Herbie Holland).

This hilarious, transgressive détournement of Hamlet—written by James Ijames and the recipient of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize—shifts the play’s setting to North Carolina and replaces European angst with Black American joy. And in its passage from drama to comedy, the story is queered as well—notably in the loose transposition of Larry/Laertes’s motivation (and fate?) with that of Opal/Ophelia’s.

During the first of two musical numbers, the question behind “To be, or not to be” becomes “What the hell am I doing here?” But there is no theatrical experience in Los Angeles more exhilarating than this ingenious expansion of Shakespeare’s work and themes at the Geffen Playhouse, a production that reunites nearly every original cast member who created their FAT HAM roles at New York’s Public Theater in 2022 before moving to Broadway last year.

FAT HAM has been extended through May 11. See info and link below.

 

 

FAT HAM

Written by James Ijames

Directed by Sideeq Heard

Through May 11

Gil Cates Theater — Geffen Playhouse

10886 Le Conte Avenue, Westwood, Los Angeles

geffenplayhouse.org/fat-ham/

 

 

James Ijames, Fat Ham, Geffen Playhouse, March 27–May 5, 2024, Opening Night April 4, from top: Marcel Spears and Adrianna Mitchell; Spears and Billy Eugene Jones; Nikki Crawford; Mitchell, Chris Herbie Holland and Spears; Jones and Spears; Crawford, Jones, Spears, Matthew Elijah Webb, and Mitchell; Webb, Jones, and Benja Kay Thomas; Spears and Crawford; Spears and Webb.

Photographs by Jeff Lorch, courtesy and © the Geffen Playhouse.