Thursday, May 2, 2019

It's hard to keep score in Marin's 'Jazz'

Joe (Michael Gene Sullivan, third from left) and Violet (C. Kelly Wright) celebrate their wedding.

“Jazz” at Marin Theatre Company opens confusingly with a funeral, but what is the significance of the deceased and why is she mourned?

The answers become clear much later in Nambi E. Kelley’s adaption of Toni Morrison’s book of the same name.

In the meantime, it isn’t easy to follow the action because it shifts from 1926 to memories of times past without much warning.

Eventually what evolves is a love triangle involving Violet (C. Kelly Wright); her husband, Joe (Michael Gene Sullivan); and Dorcas (Dezi Solèy), the young woman with whom he has an affair.

Alice (Margo Hall, right) and Violet (C. Kelly Wright) share a laugh.
Others in the eight-person, all-black cast include Bay Area favorite Margo Hall, mainly as Alice, an older, wiser woman; and lithe Paige Mayes as the mythical Golden Gray and the parrot that Joe gives Violet.

Also involved in the story is the migration of Southern blacks to Harlem, where they enjoyed greater freedom from oppression.

Directed by Awoye Timpo, everyone in the cast, including Lisa Lacy, Tiffany Tenille and Dane Troy, does well with creating characters.

Although the title might imply lots of music, the orchestral (recorded) and vocal score by Marcus Shelby is used sparingly but effectively.

Thanks to choreographer Joanne Haigood, there also is some impressive dancing, especially by the athletic Mayes and Troy.

The costumes are by Karen Perry with lighting by Jeff Rowlings and sound by Gregory Robinson.

Despite some confusing moments, this production of “Jazz” holds one’s attention. 

Running about 100 minutes without intermission, it will continue through May 19 at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley.

For tickets and information, call (415) 388-5208 or visit

Photos by Kevin Berne