Theatre Review: ‘The Ballad of Klook and Vinette’ at Horizon

Amari Cheatom and Brittany Inge

Horizon Theatre is currently presenting “The Ballad of Klook and Vinette,” written and directed by Ché Walker, with music and lyrics by Anoushka Lucas and Omar Lyefook. This two-character play with music runs through Feb. 18.

The theatre’s PR notes say that “Klook is a drifter who’s tired of drifting. Vinette is on the run, but she doesn’t know what’s chasing her. Together they make a tentative stab at love…until the past catches up to the future and smacks it in the face.”

The play asks the question of whether one can be forgiven for mistakes in one’s past; and can one still reach for dreams when she/he has almost ceased to believe in them?

It’s probably important to know that director Walker was raised in London and came to Los Angeles in high school on a basketball scholarship and lived with an African-American family for a year. There he met people that became the basis for Klook and Vinette. Mr. Walker has an impressive résumé as a writer, director, and actor.

His collaborator Mr. Lyefook “is known internationally as the godfather of the neo-soul movement”; this is a genre that encompasses music from the erotic to the spiritual.

Finally, it may be helpful to know that all three collaborators conceived of “Ballad” as one long, uninterrupted song, rather than a conventional musical. But the work is not “sung-through.” In fact, it has the quality of a long spoken poem with incidental music. Actually, I think the creators may be on the verge of creating a new art form; that seems to be their intention.

Klook (Amari Cheatom) and Vinette (Brittany Inge) are both high energy people whose worlds collide in an amalgamation of love, desire, hope, and violence. It is their relationship, at first mistrustful, then mutually encouraging, that fuels the evening and makes this show work. Klook has a past that includes prison and violence; Vinette is a would-be writer of stories; she has an obvious verbal gift, but she needs encouragement to pursue it. This Klook provides; and they have a quite steamy love affair.

Both Mr. Cheatom and Ms. Inge (especially) sing very well; they’re even more impressive actors. By the way, they are accompanied by Christian Magby on keyboards and Maurice Figgins on bass and guitar. “The Ballad of Klook and Vinette” is making its American premiere at Horizon Theatre. This is exciting to me, as Atlanta more and more becomes known as a national hub of first rate theatre; everyone knows it’s already a center of big-time film making.

Aside from an interesting ascending backdrop (by Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay), there is very little set; instead, we simply have two professional actors who draw us into their lives and then shake us up by the end. I must be enigmatic here; no spoilers.

Despite an enthusiastic opening night audience who cheered lustily at the end, I do think that “Ballad” has a work-in-progress feel to it; it is not quite yet truly dramatically compelling. But I think it will be; the creators of this piece sound like a restlessly creative bunch to me, and a little play-doctoring would probably be right up their alley. Also, talented casts always add pizazz and nuance as a play’s run progresses.

To paraphrase the poet, I feel there’s a rough beast waiting to be born here, and it’s about to happen. The play is performed in 95 minutes without an intermission. I’d catch it.

For tickets and information, visit horizontheatre.com.

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