A stage play written and
directed by Rod Grant. Produced by RL Productions and Venue Actors
Theatre review by C. A.
Passinault, Frontier Pop
Nick Naylor: Stuart
Yamir Bhatt: Anoop
Rod Grant: Dan
Lila Genese: Shenequa
Nikki Staples: Alexandra
Chi-Chi Schickel: Tina
Christy Cook: Loretta
Women Want Everything!
Four clueless friends set out on a journey to discover just what
it is women want. What ensues is a rocket ride of laughter! - From
My heart has
always been with theatre. Ever since I took Dr. Sylvano’s theatre
course in college, back in 1993, and wrote my first two stage plays,
The Outcast, and Purple Passion, theatre has been the foundation of
my entertainment career. It preceded my indie film and television work,
and it’s always been so much more intimate than those other art
forms. It’s always been important to me, and continues to be.
Throughout the 1990's, I attended Tampa plays whenever I could. I met
an actress by the name of Autumn Bange in 1997 (and, yes, Autumn, before
I had as much as an email address), and started to check out her plays.
I saw her in a play at a converted barn near Plant City, and play the
lead in Miss Firecracker at a dinner theatre off of I-4. My love of
theatre continued, too, as I went to a variety of plays and musicals
with friends, such as Ann Poonkasem, at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts
Center, or TBPAC (Sorry, I’m not comfortable referring to it as
its new name, yet).
Throughout the years as a stage fan, however, one thing has always annoyed
me about Tampa stage productions. What annoyed me, to no end, was simply
the lack of original stage performances, as most stage plays in Tampa
were adaptations of work produced elsewhere. Where was the originality
in Tampa theatre? Didn’t any of the theatre groups write, and
produce, their own plays?
Which, of course, is the reason that I was very much looking forward
to seeing, and reviewing, Women want Everything!
Women want Everything was an original stage play written, and produced,
right here in Tampa Bay, and that alone was exciting. What made it even
more so, though, was that it was written by Rod Grant, a published author
and, in my opinion, a good writer, as well as an outstanding actor.
On March 20th, 2010, Women want Everything!
had its second showing at the University of South Florida, after a successful
debut at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. I arrived at USF close
to 7:00, wondering if I had to pay for parking on campus on a weekend.
I parked near the theatre department and the Marshal Center, and began
looking for Theater 2. Along the way, I talked to an attractive girl,
and asked about the parking situation. After she gave me her number,
she told me that you didn’t have to pay for parking on the weekends,
which was fine by me.
I walked between the Marshal Center and the theatre department, and
quickly found Theater 2. At the front, I saw my friend David Best milling
around, and I was certain that our mutual friend, Ann Poonkasem, informed
him that I would be attending. David greeted me, and informed me that
the show would be starting at 7:30 PM, which gave us time to return
to my car to get my consumer camera (I did not bring any professional
camera gear to this event, because I was not sure about the etiquette,
and the rules, about photography for this performance.... something
that would come to mind later when I found myself distracted, and annoyed,
as I tried to watch the play). David and I walked back to my car, grabbed
my camera, which I put in my pocket, and returned to the Theater. Along
the way, we ran into several people who David knew, which was cool.
The doors to the Theater opened at 7:30, and David and I obtained seats
around the center of the front row, which was flush with the stage.
I looked around, and mused that sitting in the front row had the potential
to be much like a dinner theatre performance, as we were literally sitting
at the front of the stage, almost close enough to reach out and touch
the actors as they performed.. The stage was set up with three sets,
all of them backed with a backdrop dressed up like an apartment wall,
with a door at the rear of center stage. Stage left had a poker table
and some chairs. Center stage had a living room set, with the mentioned
apartment door behind it. Stage right had a bar set, and all three sets
seemed as if they were also a part of one large set. It was a very good
stage set-up (When I wrote Purple Passion back in 1993, my stage sets
were not nearly as effective, or that easy to work with, the way that
they were defined by the script. It would have been a logistical nightmare,
had it been performed).
The play had not yet started, and people were still filing in to obtain
their seats. Each seat had a playbill and business cards. Right in front
of where I sat was a DVD player on a table, and it was playing a video
on a screen set up in the middle of the living room set. The video had
a series of interviews with the sponsors, and I told David that whomever
thought of that had a good idea.
The video soon ended, and the screen was taken down. A man appeared
at the area just left of stage left, and announced a raffle, and other
news. We were told that the play was minutes away, and that they had
a special musical performance in store for us. A singer, who’s
name eludes me, as he wasn’t on the playbill, or in any program,
sang a song near the stage left set. The singing was excellent.
If this was a sign of what was ahead, it was going to be a great theatre
The play opened with a poker scene on stage left, and introduced us
to the main characters. At first, I didn’t know what to think,
as the characters all seemed to play to racial stereotypes. Rory Lawrence
played Marcus, a regular African American man. Nick Taylor played Stuart,
a guy who had long hair, and who was a typical white-trash redneck.
Yamir Bhatt played an Indian man by the name of Anoop. The fourth character
was Dan, who was played by Rod Grant, who also wrote and directed the
play. Dan was a trip. The character was a typical confused white man
who thought that he was black. When Dan sauntered onto the stage, sporting
low riding pants, an Obama shirt, and flashing a gold grill, the audience
about lost it. It was funny. Dan, you see, came off like a hyperactive,
vanilla version of Roger (or is it Duane?) from What’s Happening.
The character was really good stuff.
The four men began playing their game of cards, and talked about their
aspirations, and women in general. You see, all four of them, despite
their idiosyncrasies, were dating (I’m thinking that all of the
characters had situations which were too similar, even taking into account
their polarizing personalities. A thought: wouldn’t it have been
interesting if they all had different situations going on? Take Dan
and Stuart, for example. What if they were painfully single, and not
by choice? What if Dan’s black-man-in-a-white-man’s body
routine is a result of his insecurities, because he found if difficult
to get a girl, let alone keep one? Sorry... it’s the writer in
me. I shall continue.....). The men, of course, are clueless about what
women really want, and they show their ignorance about the opposite
sex by telling each other things which couldn’t possibly work.
This, of course, is true to the characters, but hints to us what to
expect next with the women. The men, in essence, are the blind leading
the blind, dispensing misguided advice to each other.
Now, I started out saying that the characters seemed to play to racial
stereotypes, which is a slippery slope to the pitfall of predictability
and mediocrity. This said, I must note that the writing was witty, and
helped to develop the characters well. It was good writing, in my opinion.
You start out thinking that you’ve seen this before, and that
you know the characters, and then things come along which challenge
your established preconceptions. You could almost feel the frustration
and the angst that the four principle characters are going through as
they relate their anecdotes to each other. This exposition, of course,
set us up for the meat and potatoes of the play, a series of scenes
which flirted with repetition, and which were saved, again, by good
writing, and some elements of comedy, to mix them up; each of these
dating scenes were separated by scenes of the guys playing cards, with
one character telling the others how his date night went. Each character,
who I believe were all roommates, and who put some “do not disturb”
signal on the outer apartment door, went through a date with their girlfriends.
Black and white Dan was dating Shenequa, played expertly by actress
Lila Genese. Dan and Shenequa, of course, get into a fight after Dan
gives her shoes. Shenequa, who is African American, wearily reminds
Dan that he is white, which seems to be the running gag between Dan
and rest of the cast (as well as with the audience, as Dan is the only
one who can’t seem to accept which race he is). In another dating
scene, Indian playboy Anoop had his date with sassy redhead Alexandra,
who was played by actress Nikki Staples (an actress who also reminded
me of Autumn, in some ways, which is a compliment). They go through
their dating routine, and get into a fight about her gifts (I’m
guessing that each of the men think that their women are materialistic?
I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t last long dating women under those
conditions. I simply don’t buy the women who I date much, and
they just have to deal with it). They get into a fight, and Alexandra
leaves. Marcus, too, has a date with his girlfriend, the materialistic,
gold-digging Tina, played by actress and model Chi-Chi Schickel. It
would have been nice if Tina had a bit more depth and complexity to
her, but hey, her character could have been a reflection on the tastes
and the dating judgement of Marcus, as no character should be perfectly
defined. The final date, going along, was with party man Stuart and
his girl Loretta, played by actress Christy Cook, who delivered an outstanding
performance. The Stuart / Loretta date, in my opinion, was a highlight,
and it left me wondering what in the hell Loretta saw in Stuart to begin
with. Guys, if you can get an attractive girl to overlook those shortcomings,
the shortcomings which Stuart had, I say that you need to keep her (either
she’s a keeper, or she’s insane; in the case of the latter,
getting rid of her might be the better option, on second thought). Loretta
was obviously into Stuart, and they seemed to have the most down-to-earth
relationship out of all the couples (I also will not spoil anything
here. You just have to see what Stuart gives Loretta to believe it).
There were some comedic elements which broke up the repetitive nature
of the dating scenes, too, with the other principle characters wandering
around, often half asleep (how late were these dates, anyway?!?!). In
one such interruption, Stuart wandered around wearing an interesting
item, prompting the woman in the scene to exclaim “What in
the hell was that?!?!”. I suppose that when your friends
are roommates, and they are already tucked in for the night in their
rooms, that a “do not disturb” signal on the outer door
does not work. Dating must be rough for the guys when they are not really
living on their own, and it’s probably safe to say that the living
room couch probably didn’t see that much action, despite the treasures
hidden within it.
The play ended with a night of drinking moonshine (it would have been
even more interesting if they had been drinking absinthe, in my opinion,
and I even told David that. I’m being serious, too. I knew a model
once who was a fan of that, and she was really interesting..... follow
the green fairy) and the guys getting down with a party. The next day,
they all come up with an interesting resolution, and that’s all
that I will reveal here. The ending was interesting, for sure.
I really did enjoy the play, though. I liked it a lot, and it was well
worth seeing. Regardless, there were a few issues with it that I will
go into now.
On a technical level, the lighting and audio were well done. One issue
to note, however, was that that actors are not mic’ed. I could
hear them fine, as I was sitting practically at the front of the living
room set with them, but I’m wondering how well the audience at
the rear of the theater could hear them. In a larger venue, this would
be an issue. I also took pause with a woman who was doing flash photography
near stage left, which was distracting and took the audience away from
the performance (and, yes, I could also tell that the composition of
those pictures had issues which did not justify the distraction. I’m
a photographer, and I could see exactly what kind of shots that the
woman was getting; I’d be surprised if any of the pictures came
There were issues with the support material, too, specifically the playbill.
The playbill was printed at low resolution, on low quality, color paper.
The playbill was difficult to read, and should have been at least as
high quality as the play was. Yes, it served its purpose, but it did
not compare well to other playbills, that I’ve collected, from
A little formulaic, a little repetitive, but pure comedy gold, Women
want Everything! is a good play because of good writing,
good acting, and a story that leaves you wanting more. The play is really
funny, and the audience, for the most part can relate to the characters
and their situations. This play is a superb debut effort by Rod Grant
and the cast, and I highly recommend it for a lot of laughs. You can
bring a date, too, as the story would work for a date.
are video excerpts from the stageplay (which were not taped at the performance
that we attended), added 09/19/10, which are followed by the stageplay
WWE scene 1 from Rod
Grant on Vimeo.
WWE Scene 2 from Rod
Grant on Vimeo.
WWE Scene 3 from Rod
Grant on Vimeo.
WWE Scene 4 from Rod
Grant on Vimeo.
Stage Play Review Scores
1 (lowest) to 10 (best). 5 is average.
The story was interesting, as well as funny, although some scenarios
tended to repeat themselves.
The dialogue was natural, and in-character for each character. Some
of the dialogue was hilarious, although a few lines edged toward stereotypes.
The character were will developed, although they all approached common
stereotypes. Good writing, performances from the actors, and dialogue
prevented the characters from descending into predictable stereotypes.
Most importantly, the audience could relate to the characters, which
was another redeeming characteristic.
The cast of actors did a great job portraying their characters. Rod
Grant, in particular, as Dan, the racially confused white man who thinks
that he is black, was extremely funny.
Good use of the stage with a three set layout; a poker table at stage
left, a living room set center stage, and a (underused) bar stage right.
The living room set, and, to an extent, the other sets were backdropped
with a wall and a door. The stage set up and layout was effective in
the execution of the play.
Wardrobe which fit the characters well. Some gags with the wardrobe
include the items worn by the “white trash” character Stuart,
and the Brainjacked and Obama shirts worn by the character
The usual props, which include cards, a bottle of “moonshine”,
and the gifts that the men give to their women.
Decent stage lighting from the USF theatre did the job.
The intimate venue and small audience made the lack of mic’ed
actors acceptable. The actors had to project their voices without audio
support, and the theatre audio supported some foley work, as well as
an assortment of music, which was used to pace the performance, as well
as support the storyline.
A very creative effort, with an original story and memorable characters.
The deja vu scenarios between the men and their girlfriends detracted
from overall creativity, however.
/ SFX: N/A
The play was executed well, and the performance was absorbing, funny,
and well-paced. Set change outs were minimal due to the well-thought
out, and planned, set design.
The mixed media sponsorship presentation on a screen before the play
was a good idea, and did the job. The playbill, however, was low quality,
and hard to read. Additionally, there are little more than cast bios
and sponsors on the playbill, which sold its potential short.
A highly recommended play, Women want Everything! Is really funny. Don’t
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