Hype Man at the Fountain Theatre

Hype Man at the Fountain Chad Addison, Clarissa Thibeaux, Matthew Hancock
Photo by Ed Krieger

by Bill Garry

Hype Man, the important new show at the Fountain, takes audiences into the world of Hip Hop -- politics (racial, sexual and otherwise), ambition, and behind-the-scenes business dealings.

When I say it takes you into the world, I don't mean that it presents the world in a polite, palatable, educational way; Hype Man is of that world. The play drops you right into the middle of the personalities of a rising hip hop act -- white rapper Pinnacle, black hype man Verb, and mixed race disc jockey Peep One -- and let's you feel them, identify with them, and, ultimately, question yourself. (In case you don't know, a "hype man" is a hip hop rapper's sidekick, whose job is to support the audience by echoing, feeding energy to, and even challenging the performance.)

Hype Man at the Fountain Matthew Hancock and Chad Addison
Photo by Ed Krieger

Pinnacle (played by a natural Chad Addison with inner conflict and creative zest) is a brilliant rapper who grew up in a poor black neighborhood with Verb (Matthew Hancock in a charismatic, sympathetic performance.) Their hip hop act, buoyed by the beats created by Peep One (a fierce and wise Clarissa Thibeaux), is about to hit it big with a gig on The Tonight Show. Pinnacle wants to play it safe. Verb wants to use the platform to make a statement about Black Lives Matter. Is Pinnacle just being "White?" Is Verb just being "Black?" Are they boss/employee or friends/partners? It is not so simple for the characters, nor for us.

Partway through the play, Verb erupts at Pinnacle: "It's one thing to have to live around broke black people because you don't have money to run off to the suburbs with the other white folks. It's another to love us." The audience amens and the play shifts into a higher gear.

The play also upshifts whenever the trio performs a hip hop number. They are tight, enlightening, and awesome.

Director Deena Selenow keeps the emotions and the intelligence turned up on high as the actors challenge each other and themselves. Playwright Idris Goodwin explores the pressures of society, the music business, and the characters' personal lives with language that crackles. My only criticisms: the show gets episodic at times, and Verb is picked on for his past more than anyone else.

Hype Man at the Fountain Theatre Clarissa Thibeaux and Matthew Hancock
Photo by Ed Krieger

The Fountain gets props for reaching out to a new, young audience with this play. Hype Man is the way it is today, and we need to listen.

Hype Man runs thru Apr 14 at the Fountain Theatre with performances Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays at 8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets range from $25-$45; Pay-What-You-Want seating is available every Monday night in addition to regular seating (subject to availability). 

The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles. Secure, on-site parking is available for $5. The Fountain Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. Patrons are invited to relax before and after the show at the Fountain's indoor/outdoor café. For reservations and information, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com

Posted By Bill Garry on March 08, 2019 04:00 pm | Permalink