Play combines peace, hair grease
Posted March 23, 2007

Lilia Cabello
Assistant Editor

The Pasadena Playhouse presented “Cuttin’ Up,” a play written by Charles Randolph-Wright that celebrates the barbershop culture of African-American men, Sunday.

Based on the best-selling book written by Craig Marberry, the play tells a story about three barbers, including their memories and life lessons that come from encountering all different kinds of people in the barbershop.

The old owner of the barbershop, Howard, is played with attitude by Adolphus Ward. He relies on two other younger barbers to help him out.

Andre, played by Darryl Alan Reed, has a troubled wandering past that makes it hard for him to move onto a brighter more stable future.

Dorian Logan plays Rudy, a young dreadlocked 20-something with nothing but women and music on his mind.

As people with wigs, afros and braids come in and out of the shop, the music played reflects the moods of all. Howard is reflective, thinking of times past as he hums along to his jazz.

Andre wants nothing but his oldies and R&B to put him in a good mood while Rudy constantly switches the radio to hip hop.

It’s funny to see how each actor that appears on stage as a new customer in the barbershop had previously been on stage in a different costume.
The entire play features only eight actors, three of whom never change characters, so the other five are constantly changing wardrobe, hair and makeup.

For example, an actor who played a UPS guy left the barbershop and came back as a young man with braids so tight he looked Asian.

As Andre is recounting his travels and experiences to Rudy, he tells a story about a barbershop owner who taught him to be an inspiration to others.

A woman had come to the owner and asked if her three young boys could come watch him at work one day. When the barbershop owner asked why, she said, “Because I want to expose my boys to black men doing something positive.”

As the scene continued, six actors took the stage in full suits, complete with hats, ties and jackets.

It was an impressive and inspiring sight, and paired with the story of how the young boys would be positively affected by meeting all those intelligent black businessmen.

The performance was not all serious however. At one point two reverends came into the barbershop, one from a working class church, the other one from a richer, upscale congregation.

Watching them try to one up each other in the barbershop was hilarious. They faced each other singing, shouting hallelujahs and “God bless”-ing everyone who came near them.

Comedic moments like this appeared throughout the entire performance.
Genuinely funny, they hammered home a lesson or elaborated a truth without being too over the top.

The play also addressed current issues, making the audience feel like they were in a local Pasadena barbershop. Howard, Rudy and Andre all discussed the war and military men with hushed reverence.

When they spoke of Hurricane Katrina, they praised the creativity of two men who set up a barbershop in the Astrodome to serve the hurricane victims.

The barbershop had put smiles on the faces of those who were suffering. When Rudy turned on the TV and began reciting rap lyrics, Howard silenced him with “Hateful words mean hateful things.”

Andre then told a story about working in San Francisco, where some barbers were too afraid to cut a gay man’s hair.

Andre explained that he was the first in his barbershop to do it and that fear and ignorance are what kept people of all different kinds from coming together.

As different characters came out on stage, the five actors who played them were amazing. Jacques C. Smith played a UPS delivery man, Howard’s son Jr., a very-well accented dreadlocked Jamaican man and a multitude of others.

My personal favorite was actress Iona Morris. Not only did she play the talented singer Karen, the grateful mother of three boys and the beautiful woman who wandered into the barbershop looking for someone, but she pulled off a scene as Andre’s long lost mother so well I wanted to cry.

She had the grey hair, the old voice, the oddly colored clothes and the perfect face.

The five other actors had their hands full with costume and makeup changes, but they did a fantastic job keeping pace.

The performance was full of lessons that were either funny or serious but never boring.

Each truth was easy to digest and understand through the barbershop banter. It was a simple, funny play, that combined all the stories at the end, when Andre finally realizes where he belongs.

Much like the rest of the performance, he speaks to the audience in a spotlight monologue that brings the audience closer to him, as if they are learning a secret.

His newfound wisdom resonates in the end, bringing full circle a few quotes said throughout the play.

The quotes “there are no accidents, this life is worth more than money,” and “we need to love who we are and move forward,” really defined the performance.

“Cuttin’ Up” is about using the lessons love and life teach us to create a better future.

The play runs through April 15.

Lilia Cabello can be reached at

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