In "Male Da' Men Chuns," a bill of three one-acts at the Burbage Theatre, playwright Kambon Obayani takes stock of the social pressures on minority men today.
Many of the pressures, he finds, come from within--from community or family expectations or self-destructive behaviors. In the monologue "I Am," for instance, an embittered Latino (Jerry Hyde) reveals that he was sexually abused by the priest who "was and is my mother's confessor." The experience has left him with an unresolved Oedipus complex and a penchant for wearing ladies' underwear.
Obayani is a splendid writer, with a natural ear for dialogue and a keen sensitivity for characters' point of view. Even in a fairly routine effort like "Just Us"--which involves two prison cellmates (Zeb Sanders III and Goldie Williams) arguing the pro and con of gang life--the language is natural and at times quite moving.
Obayani is a less-than-splendid director, however, and the Burbage production is a fairly ramshackle affair. One typical miscue was Obayani's decision to cast himself in all the roles in the seriocomic "Hats," which relates the bickering of a father and his three sons at their mother's funeral.
Casting a single actor might have worked if the play were structured as a series of consecutive soliloquies. But Obayani strides from pose to pose in his attempt to maintain a conversation among several different speakers. The effect is distracting and more than a little absurd.
* "Male Da' Men Chuns," Burbage Theatre, 2330 Sawtelle Blvd., West Los Angeles. Fridays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Ends Feb. 4. $15. (310) 478-0897. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.