June 25, 2009, is a day that I’ll never forget. I remember that I was on a shuttle bus taking the trip home when, it was announced by a fellow bus writer, that Michael Jackson had passed away. The day is visited again in the play, The Night Michael Jackson Diedwhich had a dry run at The Hamilton in Washington D.C., on the ninth anniversary of the King of Pop’s passing.
Playwright Kymone Freeman weaves a tale of two friends Cedric (John Johnson) and Mike (Jason Anderson) who are enjoying a bachelor party weekend in Miami. The last night of the party, the friends meet two sisters Quistondra (Vaunita Goodman) and Anay (Angus Li). Cedric is smitten with Quistondra, while Mike has eyes on Anay. Only two of the characters make a love connection, while the other two doesn’t.
I was curious to the approach that Freeman would take with the play, as using a historical event as a framing device for a play’s narrative backdrop can sometimes be tricky. For the most part, Freeman pulls it off. Going into the production, I thought the play would solely focus on Michael’s passing and focus on his musical legacy bringing strangers together. Instead, Kymone Freeman gives a play that talks about politics, Cuba and not judging a book by its cover.
There were moments in the play when I found myself agreeing with some of the moments that Quistondra would point out to Malik. There was one moment, when Quistondra informs Cedric, that there is worth of knowledge in a bookstore if he would take the time visit one. Another highlight for me involved a debate between the two about the political climate of America vs. Cuba.
The second half of the play takes a different turn when the two characters who made love connection have to make a life-altering decision. I found this half of the production to be weaker than the first, and the transition wasn’t a smooth one. While the first half moved along rather quickly, the second half began to drag, and I found myself checking my watch numerous times.
In fact, the only highlight of the second half for me was hearing “Good Times,” which is one of my favorite songs by The Jacksons. DJ Lance Reynolds, picked the perfect songs from MJ’S catalog to tell the story.
The Night Michael Jackson Diedisn’t a bad play, and hopefully, once the play premiers the final product will come across better. Kymone Freeman is a talented writer, however with a weak second half and tone change, The Night Michael Jackson Died doesn’t give the King of Pop, his just due.
Final Grade C