The Da Da | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Da Da 

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The Da Da, at the Athenaeum Theatre, through September 22. In his solo debut, James T. Alfred mines some of the same comedic veins as John Leguizamo: growing up in the inner city, dating, ethnic differences. Alfred is a charming performer and has a real gift for characterization. Some of his observational humor is truly funny. But he's not sufficiently seasoned as a writer or performer to pull off a complete evening. His vocal energy flags from time to time, and his physical meanderings on a mostly bare stage tend to drag out scenes, as in an otherwise sharp bit on the differences in pickup techniques between blacks and "pinks," as he calls white people.

Alfred's sharpest observations come from his frustrations with being a substitute teacher in the public schools (a job he describes as "college welfare") and with lax service at inner-city fast-food joints. These sections hint at his dual insider-outsider perspective as a ghetto child who managed to "transcend the locale" and earn a college degree. If he would focus his material on that duality and hire a director to streamline his performance, he might be onto something.

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