3 p.m., Nov. 13
Milk Like Sugar at La Jolla Playhouse
Snap decisions with lifelong consequences: a tattoo, saying something ridiculous on the Internet...a pregnancy pact?
In Kirsten Greenidge's drama, Annie, Margie, and Talisha thrive on the social network. They are at once sprinting and standing still (like sitting behind a retainer wall at an airport and watching jets they'll never ride zoom overhead - the symbolic statement behind Mimi Lien's stage-wide concrete wall). There's no time to reflect. Just react. Quantity's in vogue, not quality.
I recently overheard a person boast, "I have 731 friends on Facebook!"
"Oh yeah?" an anti-social net-worker replied, "NAME THEM!"
Although the three young African-American women are "connected" - their purses and pockets always ringing - they feel excluded from something more, something of value in their lives (16-year-old Annie wants to "find a more excellent way"). So they make a pact: since Margie is already "pg," the other two will become pregnant as well. It will make them "strong and fierce" with something to hold on to.
Annie vows to "hit it pretty quick, yo."
In the logic of the moment, the pact makes sense. Milk Like Sugar - the title refers to powdered milk, and quantity over quality) - reveals the results.
Under Rebecca Taichman's direction, the dialogue crackles like improvised jazz. Cherise Boothe (Talisha), Nikiya Mathis (Margie), and especially Angela Lewis (Annie) interact as if they've known each other from birth.
The play opens with two striking scenes: the pact; and, a surprise, Annie's target refuses to wear a bull's eye. What follows feels like a 90-minute piece padded to two acts. The second half lags, then concludes with a powerful, if expected, conclusion.
The script needs tightening, among other things, to reflect the supersonic speed with which things happen.
The supporting cast boasts Tony Award-winner Tonya Pinkins as Annie's mother, Myrna, a cigarette dangling from her lips, her twisted hopes curling like smoke. LeRoy McClain (Antwoine) and J. Mallory-McCree underplay the males to good effect.
Toni-Leslie James' costumes define character with precision, especially when Adrianne C. Moore steps on stage as Keera. No one fits in, bullied Keera least of all.