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'FRIENDS AND LOVERS' Play causes reflections on people's relationships



Published: Tue, February 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The play's multimedia stage makes the performance seem like a movie rather than theater.

YOUNGSTOWN -- In theory, most plays, movies and albums aspire to change people's lives. However, actually making good on that promise is a different story.

Still, producers of Eric Jerome Dickey's best-selling novel-turned-play "Friends and Lovers" have high hopes that theatergoers attending the upcoming Youngstown performance, on Valentine's Day no less, at the Powers Auditorium will exit the show if not inspired to change, definitely more enlightened to the status of their own relationship. Yes guys, this means you. Remember, the success of all relationships begins with compromise.

With this in mind, "Friends and Lovers" is filled with honesty and optimism, which is what first attracted the producers of the show to its story.

"We were looking for a project that would appeal to not only African-American women but men about relationships as a whole," said co-executive producer Gary Guidry calling from Raleigh, N.C. "We saw relationships suffering in an age where we had not only three-week marriages but 30-year marriages falling to the wayside. The divorce rate is high and people were just not responding to their relationships. We thought this story was right on time."

"Friends and Lovers" tells a story of two sets of best friends who begin dating and subsequently experience all of the enjoyments and hurdles relationships provide in daily life. The star-studded cast includes Leon ("Waiting to Exhale," "The Five Heartbeats"), Monica Calhoun ("The Best Man," "The Players Club"), Miguel A. Nunez Jr. ("Juwana Man"), Mel Jackson ("Soul Food," "Deliver Us From Eva"), Lavell Crawford ("ComicView") and Trina Jeffrie ("Sister Cantaloupe").

Movielike setting

The contemporary play features a multimedia stage, complete with video screens and a full band. Overall, the production has a movie quality that oftentimes extends to the reaction of the audience.

"I think what surprises us is that the audience get so entangled in the plot twists in the play, that they actually start talking to the stage like you would do in a movie theater," Guidry said. "Not only is it funny with heartfelt moments but the play just sucks the audience into itself and it becomes a true relationship between the stage and the audience."

As to the aforementioned high aspirations, Guidry doesn't back down from his belief that "Friends and Lovers" will affect each and every audience member in a different and unique way.

"When people see this play, you'll see couples start to hold hands, look at each other and laugh," Guidry said. "You can tell that they're relating to certain situations. So, whether you have a happy relationship, a relationship that is in turmoil or a relationship that you are wondering if it can get right, this is the piece that you definitely need to see before you make any rash decisions because it will influence how you're thinking about your current situation."




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