MINGUS, MINGUS, MINGUS: I AM THREE
nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
In Mingus, Mingus, Mingus: I Am
Three, playwright-performer Karen Kaderavek attempts to show us the
life and persona of Charles Mingus…a worthy goal. As jazz fans will
know, Mingus was a virtuoso bass player, an accomplished pianist, a
bandleader, and a prolific composer. The show traces his life from his
childhood gospel beginnings, through his incredible roller coaster
career, to his untimely death from Lou Gehrig’s Disease at the age of
56. Mingus worked with the best of the best including Charlie Parker,
Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Art Tatum, Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, Lionel
Hampton, and Duke Ellington, whose music he claimed awakened him to the
August 15, 2003
This is obviously a labor of love and Kaderavek does a valiant job of portraying not only Mingus, but also various lady partners he had throughout his life. She also plays the cello beautifully. However the piece comes to a standstill for each not-so-quick costume change, and although I very much enjoyed listening to the Mingus recordings while the set was dark, I think using more actors in the cast could enhance the experience.
Stephen Orlov, whose bio reveals no previous directing credits, makes some nice stage pictures with the use of a bass, cello, chair, and stool on an otherwise bare stage, but pacing is a problem at times and certain sections of the show go on far too long. The piece would be well served with some cuts. Lighting by Rachel Gilmore is simple and creative, and there is no credit given for the costume design, which could use some more thought.
While the fact that this evening takes place in the cramped, hot, Independent Theater space may help it feel like an old jazz club, it is no help to the poor performer who struggles to concentrate through heat, sweat and the latecomers who must practically step on the stage to get to their seats. Ms. Kaderavek handles it all with panache.