Wandachristine (left), Lucas Hall and Zakiya Young in "Familiar." Photo by J.T. McMillan
Whether on the screen or on the stage, tales about planning for a wedding, with all the requisite chaos and familial infighting, can be trite. Familiar is not trite. That’s because actor-playwright Danai Gurira’s wedding story onstage at the Old Globe Theatre is both sensitive and substantive. Heritage and tradition are at odds with assimilation and midwestern comforts in the home (a cozy design by Walt Spangler) of Donald and Marvelous Chinyaramwira (Danny Johnson and Cherene Snow), whose daughter Tendi (Zakiya Young) is about to be married. Encouraged by her fiercely traditional Auntie Anne (Wandachristine), Tendi has opted for a pre-wedding Zimbabwe ritual. The consternation that ensues, mainly from Marvelous, results in a lot of shouting and many genuinely funny lines.
Familiar even boasts its moments of physical comedy, most physical of all at the very end of Act I. The play, directed by Edward Torres, does turn solemn in the second act, when a big reveal completely alters the tone, yet allows Johnson and Snow to deliver the show’s two most impassioned orations.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 2/6/19.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.