by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
The following review originally appeared at L.A. Theatre Review
Michael’s Daughter is based on actress/writer Ciera Payton’s paper trail relationship of hand written letters, with her incarcerated father who is currently serving a seven year prison sentence in Cottonport, Louisiana for a non-violent drug offense.
It is a work in progress, bodied in great part by the intoxicating history of life in New Orleans, a small, intimate menage of her own drug addicted kin in an overcrowded home, and the added influence of growing up bi-racial in the South, with her father’s family who is completely white.
What is remarkable about this story is how Ms. Payton relates herself independent of it. It is an account in some ways more about the people whose doorsteps she is left at, who take car of her, raise her, abandon her, advise her, champion her and fail her. Although she is every bit a part of this intriguingly, melodious score, there is a definitive unwillingness to accept it.
Acutely adept at impersonation (aunt, mother, father) she moves the audience through memory, voice and dream, investigating the complexities of her life and emotions that she wills herself to witness but not fully experience. Love, desire, guilt, her need to know how to value herself in the world and especially men remain as elusive as the drums that beat inside her during sublimated dreams where visions and characters visit like specters. They force her to deal with her walls and embrace her heart, her life and herself fully – simply as, Michael’s daughter.
Stage direction and choreography could be a bit more quiet for a small black box venue but otherwise, exquisitely done.
Playing at Complex Theatre Flight
6476 Santa Monica Blvd.