CAN I TOUCH IT - A Rogue Machine Theatre World Premiere Production

Reviewed by Amanda Callas

It seems incongruous to combine words like community activism, social justice, feminism, predatory capitalism, class, and FUN in one sentence, but can i touch it? at the Matrix Theatre is an incredibly fun, laugh-out-loud romp, while being a serious drama about profound social issues and an intimate family story.   What a striking accomplishment for theatre company Rogue Machine and playwright francisca da silveira. Her writing is masterful, weaving in exposition and timely, weighty themes while always feeling organic, natural, and effortless. She writes her characters smart, blisteringly witty, daring, authentic, and heartbreakingly vulnerable. Even villainous characters have surprising range and self-awareness. Taboos are cast aside, stereotypes smashed, and buried truths are named, all to a killer soundtrack. The direction by Gregg T. Daniel is sublime, audacious, gut-punching and joyous.

The cast is truly excellent. Shay, superbly played by Safiya Fredericks, is the play's heart and anchor, an over-worked business owner, mother, and community activist who is fighting hard not to lose her wig and hair care shop to a predatory bank.

Shay's area of Boston is being redeveloped for its lucrative real estate potential, and the Black community is being actively driven out in a million painful ways.

Then there is the glorious ferocity of Emmy Award winner Suzen Baraka's performance as Meeka, Shay's niece and shop employee, a bold, self-assured, lesbian hairstylist and change maker. We think we know what this character can do to us, but her monologue about beauty and pain was an explosion of raging dramatic wildfire. It's hard to believe this is the same actor playing the panther smooth, whisper quiet menace of the smiling predatory banker Beth. What a range.

Iesha Daniels also plays two quite different characters, an aspirational banking assistant who is working her way up the corporate ladder, and Shay's teen daughter, about to go off to college. Daniels gives both characters a tenderly lush depth, hilarious comedic punch, and enthralling charm. Scott Victor Nelson brings enormous subtlety and realism to the three striking characters he plays, and a fundamental human decency to his community activist that was a pleasure to see.

I don't want to spoil a delectable surprise in the plot, but there is a moment of magical realism in the play that is executed exquisitely by scenic designer Mark Mendelson, prop designer Ashley Crow, and lighting designer Leigh Allen. This moment is simultaneously funny, awkward, and profoundly creepy, it is technically quite impressive, and it is utterly bewitching. The artisanship on this production is superlative.

can i touch it? is unforgettable, audacious, riotously entertaining - and a tour de force.

Rogue Machine (in the Matrix Theatre) 7657 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046 (Street parking) 

For reservations call 855-585-5185 or  

General Seating: $45 Seniors: $35 Students with ID and children under 18: $25
Pay-What-You-Can Fridays: May 12 $10+ (at 7pm), May 19, 26 (15+), June 2 (20+)
Closing: June 11, 2023 

Posted By DH Magazine on May 10, 2023 02:14 pm | Permalink