Playwright George Corbin definitely had his tongue firmly ensconced in his cheek when he conjured up THE WRONG KIND OF PEOPLE. Set in 1942, the play manages to poke fun at the prejudice of the day. When African-American Theo (Ken Ivy) books a room at the Guardian Hotel in Los Angeles, he isn’t prepared for the prejudice he’ll face while he tries to study for the upcoming bar exam. A recent graduate from USC’s law school, Theo finds himself being guided to his own special room – for Coloreds only – not the best-kept digs in this pricey establishment. But it is, after all, quiet and conducive to study. When bell boy Fixit (Damon Rutledge) offers him a few bucks to let a couple of uninvited guests briefly enter his room, Theo’s night of unexpected surprises is about to begin.
The space seems quiet enough until Theo begins to meet the visitors – courtesy of Fixit – stepping through his window. Almost like Scrooge meeting his ghost guides that long-ago Christmas, who should climb in but a face from his past: a hooded Judge Purdy (Darrell Philip), who clearly doesn’t want to be seen or recognized during his late-night trip to check up on his wife (Stephanie Schulz), whom he suspects of cheating on him in this luxurious venue. The honorable Judge seems to be testing theories about alcohol and guns as he explains his late-night visit to a flabbergasted Theo.
When the befuddled judge finally exits the room to see what’s going on with his wife, another unexpected caller slips through the open window. Theo is confronted by the gorgeous, sexy Mex (Chauntice Green), who’s apparently on the way to the penthouse to entertain at an exclusive males-only party. By now, studying for the bar seems a distant dream. But they keep on coming – with Spider Shultz (Stephen Tyler Howell) finally entering the – by now – crowded room. Directed by C. Julian White, THE WRONG KIND OF PEOPLE combines humor and slapstick to poke fun at some real social issues facing African-Americans in the 1940’s. Michael D. Ricks’ set design beautifully captures the dingy, depressing feel of a guest room not often hosting guests. Naila A. Sanders’ costume design brings the 1940’s to life. C. Julian White’s sounds and Michael D. Ricks’ lighting help set the mood. The entire production staff are clearly on the same page and working as a cohesive team.
THE WRONG KIND OF PEOPLE is a cute bit of fluff about some disturbing Los Angeles history, a play which tries to focus on the humorous rather than the tragic. The ensemble cast works well together to set the mood and keep things going forward. For an audience who enjoy lots of visual humor and the occasional funny jibe, THE WRONG KIND OF PEOPLE should prove highly entertaining.
THE WRONG KIND OF PEOPLE runs through December 8, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Robey Theatre Company plays at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, Theatre Four, 514 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013. For information and reservations, call 213-489-7402 or go online.