Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Chicken & Biscuits
Also see Rebecca's recent review of Written by Phillis
Chicken & Biscuits revolves around the Jenkins family as they come together to celebrate the life of their patriarch. Being at their father's funeral is not enough to stop long feuding sisters Baneatta Mabry (Miche Braden) and Beverley Jenkins (Gabrielle Lee) from trading barbs whenever they are within shouting distance. Beverley's perpetually embarrassed daughter La'Trice Franklin (Maya Imani) just wants to hang out with her favorite cousin Kenny (Adrian Baidoo), but Kenny is trying to keep his white Jewish boyfriend from being offended by the family's practiced indifference. Neither Kenny's mom Baneatta nor his sister Simone (Ashley Nicole Baptiste) are willing to truly acknowledge his boyfriend Logan (Alex Brightwell), but his dad Reginald (Walter Deshields) may be willing to do at least a bit better.
Braden and Lee were laugh out loud funny, displaying an utterly convincing sense of sisterly frustration, anger, and love. It was side splittingly funny when Braden feigned shock and horror at the neckline of her sister's dress and equally amusing when Lee made the heartbroken confession that she was always her father's favorite child. Imani was hilarious as ambitious and dramatic teenage troublemaker La'Trice Franklin. Baidoo brought sensitivity and grace to the role of Kenny, generating a sense of optimism and possibility that kept the tone of the entire comedy pleasantly warm and inviting.
Ramaj Jamar's costume designs were spot on. Braden and Lee's wardrobes in particular were a perfect reflection of their respective characters as well as being beautifully fitted. José Santiago's bold lighting design was excellent, but it was not enough to save Chris Haig's troubled scenic design. The set did not feel like it filled up the stage and yet the actors sometimes seemed uncomfortably pinned down to one small area. Despite being visually interesting it was an unfortunately awkward design.
Bristol Riverside Theatre's Chicken & Biscuits was genuinely entertaining, seriously funny, and surprisingly touching. This is not the sort of comedy that pushes boundaries or expands your mind, but it was an old-fashioned good time spending the evening with the Jenkins family.
Chicken & Biscuits ran through June 4, 2023, at the Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol PA. For information about the company, please visit www.brtstage.org or call 215-785-0100.