Fried Chicken and Latkes

nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
June 15, 2013

Over at The Actors Temple on 47th Street, an active synagogue where there was praying on Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon continued with a musical, life-affirming performance from Rain Pryor.   Ms. Pryor, daughter of famed comedian Richard Pryor and a Jewish exotic dancer, tells the story of her childhood in California from 1969 onwards.   When you're not laughing or clapping along to the music, you will be sad to notice that the show is over.

Literally born of the hope of the 1960s, Rain Pryor grew up mostly with her mother and maternal grandparents.  Grandma is portrayed as not being quite ready for such a wonderful, multiracial child.  Neither were Rain's classmates in Beverly Hills.  Fortunately, there were fearless friends like Yolanda of the step team, and so Rain emerged with respect for both her heritages: "proud but feeling guilty about it."  Her mother made quite an impression on everyone, that's why she is called "Joan Crawford of the 'hood."

Richard Pryor gets a lot of admiration in this piece, too.  Through many delightful impersonations,  he emerges as a caring parent, somewhat inseparable from the crazy living that comes with stardom and which eventually drives Rain away from "Hollywierd". (It is a world with its normal moments, too; one time, Miles Davis was Rain's babysitter.)  This new angle on Richard Pryor's life is very touching, down to his affliction with multiple sclerosis.   The memorial service for him is remembered onstage with gospel music.   Rain Pryor, an actress and producer in her own right, wants us to know that coming from two places has only helped her succeed.

I really enjoyed the many stories in Fried Chicken and Latkes about being who you are, no matter what.    From the Jewish "Kol Nidre" melody to "His Eye Is On The Sparrow", it is clear that Rain Pryor is at home with every aspect of both worlds.   The band is perfect.  Aziza Miler is a monster on the piano, and bassist Colman Nakano and percussionist Chris Eddleton keep the jazz and soul rhythms going at full speed.

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