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About last night: Celebrating the premiere of ‘Black Super Hero Magic Mama’

About last night: Celebrating the premiere of ‘Black Super Hero Magic Mama’
The cast of "Black Super Hero Magic Mama" attend an after-party celebrating the new play, which is at Geffen Playhouse in Westwood through April 14. (Jordan Strauss Photography)

Catching up with Craig Robinson during intermission at opening night for “Black Super Hero Magic Mama” at the Geffen Playhouse, we asked the “Brooklyn 99” actor how he was enjoying the new play.

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“I love it,” he said. “I’m along for the ride and can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Like Robinson, the audience for this play was an enthusiastic one.

The event

Craig Robinson at the opening night of "Black Super Hero Magic Mama," a new play at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.
Craig Robinson at the opening night of "Black Super Hero Magic Mama," a new play at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. (Jordan Strauss Photography)

The Wednesday world premiere of “Black Super Hero Magic Mama” took place at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.

Following curtain calls, the cast, donors and other friends of the theater adjourned for an after-party at the restaurant Fellow.

The scene

Inda Craig-Galván and Matt Shakman.
Inda Craig-Galván and Matt Shakman. (Jordan Strauss Photography)

Not only did this play’s cast turn up, but several actors from “Lights Out: Nat ‘King’ Cole” at the adjacent Gil Cates Theater also joined in the celebration.

“Every time I walk by their theater, I can see all the bright lights and projections and the colorful costumes,” said Zonya Love, who plays Cole’s mother, Perlina, in the other play. “I’m drawn like a moth to light. I really want to see this show.”

The show

Written by Inda Craig-Galván and directed by Robert O’Hara, the play centers on Sabrina Jackson (Kimberly Hébert Gregory), who retreats into a comic book world after the shooting death by police of her 14-year-old son.

As the invincible Maasai Angel, she then battles villains in her more-psychedelic-than-Wonder-Woman-style costume, against an elaborate backdrop of comic book projections, before finally learning to cope with the tragedy.

The quotes

Kimberly Hébert Gregory, left, and Cynthia Kaye McWilliams.
Kimberly Hébert Gregory, left, and Cynthia Kaye McWilliams. (Jordan Strauss Photography)

“It was a challenge to try to inhabit Sabrina’s mind, to have to sit in that imagination and in that avoidance of pain and grief,” Hébert Gregory said at the after-party, “but it was also rewarding, because a lot of times as black women, we’re seen stereotypically as strong. And oftentimes, there’s no real acknowledgement of the fragility and the trauma and the loss. I was grateful that I could sit in that space temporarily to honor those women who live there.”

“The play is actually dealing with something very important and very real that is happening right now, and that is the killing of young black bodies by police,” said O’Hara. “But also in America, we’ve been talking about black bodies a lot lately with R. Kelly, with Jussie Smollet, with Michael Jackson. There’s also blackface and Black Lives Matter. So this is part of that whole conversation.”

“Every play that we do has to have a resonance and a relevance to what’s happening today,” said the Geffen’s artistic director, Matt Shakman. “So my hat’s off to Inda, as she was able to do something ripped from the headlines in a fresh, unique way. This play is powerful and deeply emotional, while at the same time being nothing you’ve ever seen before. … It’s magical, seeing a transformation before your eyes. There’s no CGI. There’s no Wakanda being created by a million artists at Marvel. It’s something you can only see in a theater.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

‘Black Super Hero Magic Mama’

Where: Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood

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When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; ends April 14

Tickets: $30-$120

Info: (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.org

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