Seeing Tammi Mac's "Bag Lady" At Stage 52!
If you're a radio listener, a commercial watcher, or simply aware of TV, Film, and Entertainment at large there aren't too many places you can go and NOT see, hear or KNOW who Tammi Mac is! The KJLH host, TV host, and Actor has taken her wonderful and critically acclaimed web-series, Bag Lady, from your computer screens and put it all on the stage in her one-woman theatrical adaption of the same name. I was privileged to be invited to a preview of the show which opens this weekend at Stage 52 in Los Angeles. All I can say (without giving too much away) was that I simply wasn't ready.
The story of a woman caught in a cycle of bad decisions, stringing her life from one bad relationship to the next is simply a PC understatement to the show I witnessed. I walk into the theatre, take my seat, prepare myself for a great time and then it begins. The lights lower, a deep voice tells us that the show is beginning, no flash photography, check out the web-series (I felt like I was at the movies for a moment) and then without hesitation I was off on a ride not to be ridden lightly. A projection of a little girl (assumingly Tammi Mac) sharing with us a story unfortunately told by millions across the world but not one we as people want to focus on, appears on the huge projection screen. Here we are and there she was making us take notice of the reality that is Rape and Molestation. Through storytelling and great graphics it begins to make sense, that is, the reason why we're looking at a stage draped in what LITERALLY looks like black Hefty trash bags.
Enters Tammi Mac in her blue-gray pants, sparkly Toms, pink cowl sleeveless shirt, and her hair laid for the GAWDS and (I'm sure) about to be sweated out with the way this stage is set up. It literally looks like a three ring circus set up so I'm sure there's bound to be lots of movement and lots of surprises. Needless to say I was right. It's hard to really go in on this show without giving up to you what those surprises are, especially if you're on your way to see it for yourself. So let me give what I can and say as much as I need to as to give you a great insight on my experience without ruining the incredible story.
We travel with Mac through her life of men, friends and the slew of horrible, entertainingly funny, and yet and still tragic decisions that I'm sure most of her fans never knew. Stories of love, lust and police cars with famed hype man Flava Flav. Her run-in with a nice country boy that goes from sugar to s**t in no time flat. The loss of her best friend after sleeping with one of Hip-Hop's most influential rappers. And an insight to a part of Mac's life that left me speechless, breathless and almost in tears; involving drugs, love and one of the most (I'm sure) embarrassing, painful and humiliating moments of her past.
Overall the acting was solid. Tammi Mac is HANDS DOWN one of the most entertaining character actors I have ever seen. The way she can flow from one comedic character to the next was simply awesome to witness. However the more solemn and series parts of the show (excluding the tragic moments which she DELIVERED) were a bit stagnant for me. I felt as though some of the dramatic pauses elongated a moment that didn't need to be elongated. They took away from the momentum that Tammi sets straight from the gate: fast paced, ever-changing, unexpected, and seemingly off the cuff. Or maybe it was just preview jitters that caused the narration not to pull me completely in. Either way I was still very interested in continuing this journey with her.
Considering this WAS a preview there are a few things that I will assume were just "kinks" and not the lack of any technical skill. Stage 52 is a rather nice sized theatre that still lends to a very intimate type of setting between actor and audience. With that said it was very difficult to get passed not being able to hear Mac as she had to speak and eventually yell over the sound cues (inclusive of many musical cues of Hip-Hop and R&B's best hits). I wanted to turn my head and yell at the sound man,
"Obviously we can't HEAR her! Can you turn it down please?!"
But like I said, theatrical previews are expected to have SOME "kinks" so I paid it dust and continued to enjoy the parts of the show I could actually hear. The other distracting moment was the shutter sounds from the camera person taking still shots of the performance. Here Mac is crying and reliving, on stage for all the world to see, a death of someone close to her and in the midst of the silence we hear:
**QSH QSH.....QSH QSH QSH**
I felt like I was on a damn episode of Scandal, you know, when the scenes cut really fast between one another and you hear the cameras shutter sound? If I had a brick I cannot promise you that I would not have thrown it! However I understand that greatness has to be documented (especially a show like this) but can we PLEASE find a way to turn OFF the shutter?! I am not aware if said photographer will be in house doing the same during the actual SOLD OUT performances, however, if they are, God help the distraction that those God-awful shutter sounds may cause!
The graphics, on the other hand, and interactivity of such were simply INCREDIBLE!!!!! I had NEVER seen anything like that on a stage such as Stage 52! The graphic designer needs some type of an award for this production. Lighting was insane and it really took a setting (like a one-person show) to another level. It tied into the story; it made me, as an audience member, stay engaged and truly pushed the envelope of creativity and innovation. I was thoroughly impressed and I applaud Tammi Mac and her entire team for creating such an awe abiding experience.
After an hour and half of laughing, deep thoughts and mind shocking news from Tammi Mac's past, I can assure the masses that I was thoroughly entertained. As an actor myself having done a One-Man Show (Closed Mouths Can't Sing) I know firsthand what it takes to write, relive and react all over again to things in your past and then have to portray those moments to a room full of strangers and loved ones while STILL putting on a great show. **Tips Hat** Tammi Mac did just that as effortlessly and flawlessly as any actor could have.
If you know anything about me and my blog, you know that I NEVER kiss ass to make good in this industry! I feel like whatever blessings and opportunities God has for you, you can get them without having to lie your way in at the door. I believe in telling the truth, sharing that truth and allowing for the masses to decide for themselves what THEY feel and what THEY think. Too many people in this industry are "Yes" people! And for anyone in a state of "trying to be the best" having "Yes" people all around you hinders you from reaching that goal. When I review a piece I'm reviewing it without bias and with great consideration that my words can help and/or hinder; I'm never going to lie, however, just to get by. A review from me is a review you can TRUST to be the truth!
With that said, Tammi Mac's Bag Lady IS, undoubtedly, an AWESOME piece of work! The writing could have gone through, literally, A FEW more revisions to cut out things that didn't necessarily help to really push the show's momentum. However, it still was incredibly and intelligently written. The team she put together to help produce the effects, the lighting and other technical aspects of the show were rightly chosen (but STILL tell that sound man to turn it down so we can hear Miss Mac! And PLEASE turn off that damn shutter sound on that camera!). In any event the talent, courage, wisdom, strength, pain, hurt, betrayal, realizations, fears, endurance, and God-given ability that Tammi Mac brought to that stage, left on that stage, and engraved on the minds of those watching was without a doubt a destined and anointed experience (above ALL else) that I, an audience member, was blessed to witness.
If you HAVE the ability to get a ticket and see this show I encourage you to do so. This is Tammi Mac like you've never seen her before, sharing things that will sure to leave your jaw (and face) on the floor, and giving you just enough funny to make it Mac Approved!
**Photo courtesy of EmpowermentMagazine.com