Street Poet's Work Shines in 'Mbari'

The real treats in "Mbari: When the Land Is Hot/No Condition Is Permanent," a performance piece at various venues around town, are a couple of fascinating monologues by street poet K. Curtis Lyle.

Lyle, a co-founder of the Watts Writers Workshop during the 1960s, delivers hypnotizing, freely associative riffs that cover everything from Fidel Castro to the fall of Saigon to William Styron's novel "The Confessions of Nat Turner."

Despite the free association, Lyle's word-jazz has more coherence than the rest of "Mbari," which, as directed by performer Joyce Guy, is a hit-or-miss potpourri of song, dance, monologue and video broadly concerned with African American culture. The title refers to a Nigerian festival that healed the land through sacrifice to the gods.

Nothing if not inclusive, the cast members on review night invited audience members onstage to tell how they would like to change the community. It was a generous and unifying gesture, even if it failed to unify the very disparate themes in this show.

* "Mbari: When the Land Is Hot/No Condition Is Permanent," Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m.: the Vision Complex, 4310 Degnan Blvd.; Jan. 20, 8 p.m.: Plummer Park Fiesta Hall, 1200 N. Vista St., West Hollywood.; Jan. 28, 3 p.m.: Watts Senior Citizens Center, 1657 E. Century Blvd. Ends Jan. 28. (213) 292-7592. $8. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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