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Review: What I Learned in Paris at Indiana Repertory Theatre

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It's 1973 and Maynard Jackson has just been elected Atlanta's first African-American mayor. Some of his supporters are winding down the celebration at the house that was campaign headquarters and looking forward to the changes that are surely about happen.

But Pearl Cleage's What I Learned in Paris, on Indiana Repertory Theatre's Upperstage through April 12,  soon proves itself to be more about love than politics. And ultimately it's more about living one’s own life as authentically as possible than playing a generic role in what more than one character calls “the flow of history.”
Erika LaVonn and David Alan Anderson in What I Learned in Paris. - ZACH ROSING
  • Zach Rosing
  • Erika LaVonn and David Alan Anderson in What I Learned in Paris.

I loved the play's elegant blend of wisdom and humor. No revolution is worth it if it doesn’t have room for love and no man is a catch who doesn’t love you madly. There is power in a perfect brunch and every woman needs to be able to eat alone in a fancy restaurant.

The five actors under Lou Bellamy’s direction are all outstanding, making their characters warmly human. David Alan Anderson plays J.P. Madison, an ambitious but in many ways clueless lawyer who may get to be city attorney if he can get his personal life squared away.
Erika LaVonn and David Alan Anderson in What I Learned in Paris. - ZACH ROSING
  • Zach Rosing
  • Erika LaVonn and David Alan Anderson in What I Learned in Paris.

LaKeisha Randle plays Ann Madison, J.P.’s sweet and well-meaning but very young new wife. Cedric Mays plays J.P.’s trusted co-worker, John Nelson, who wants Ann to run away with him. Tracy N. Bonner is Lena Jefferson, an independent but endearing career campaigner. And Erika LaVonn is Evie Madison, J.P.’s charismatic ex-wife who is back in town after being away and ready to make her own kind of mark on the city.

The design team, too, is excellent. I especially admired Vicki Smith’s set and Mathew J. LeFebvre’s costumes. From the avocado green fridge to the rotary dial phones, to the afro hairstyles and the knit pantsuits and the flowing maxi gowns, I felt we were in the real 1970s, not a spoof of them.

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