"The Book of the Crazy African," at Theatre of Arts in Los Angeles, doesn't have much of a book. It isn't very crazy, nor is it particularly African.

Instead, this collection of songs, dances and recitations for soloists and ensembles is formless, surprisingly mild, and very American. It's a showcase for some top-notch performers, but Theodore Wilson's writing and directing are no more than middle notch.

The program tells us that Wilson's script is "creative journal writing expressed in theatrical form." But the personal stamp that's promised by those words (and by the title) is not to be found. The material isn't fresh enough, nor is it arranged so as to suggest a distinctive point of view.

Even though the show is set in the "Landscape of a Black Man's Mind in America," much of it is actually told from a woman's perspective--and two of the women in the cast, husky-voiced Sheila Scott-Wilkinson and the dynamic Joyce Sylvester, really sparkle.

Among the men, Felton Perry effortlessly demonstrates his versatility, and Roman Cisneros strikes the right poses in his hot-summer-night solo.

Designers Leroy Meadows (lighting) and T.J. Williams (costumes) created a dark, dramatic space.

Performances are at 4128 Wilshire Blvd., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m., through March 30 (213) 933-5279).

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World