Review of "Wonderful World of Peter Williams"
“My name is Peter Damn Williams and I am so fierce.”Fierce, as in intense. He’s also very funny, a little freaky and, from his perspective, fabulous. The self-promotional adage, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” is his credo.Alemaedae Theater and playwright/artistic director Phil Davis, borrowing space from Road Less Traveled Productions and its Market Arcade stage, has decided to introduce Peter Damn Williams to the world and, well, why not?The silly, harmless but obnoxious on occasion model, actor and media personality – with his “flawless looks, quick wit and signature walk” – is a welcome distraction from harrowing daily news.And so we travel with Peter – faultlessly and grandly played by another Williams, Barry – through scenes depicting “The Wonderful World of Peter Williams,” witnesses to his birth and his father’s abandonment, the boy’s devotion to his mother, usual sibling rivalry and an interest in things frilly and chic.Deadbeat Dad wasn’t there to take the effeminate lad to a ball game, but an early influence was his maternal grandfather, a cool dude named Grandpa Damn – “Grandpa D-word,” to Peter – a guy with Nathan Detroit suits and always in the company of painted ladies of the evening.“I don’t know what Grandpa D-word does for a living,” Peter Damn often pondered. The old man, worried about Peter’s walk, fashion design talk and fascination with color coordination, nevertheless taught the boy how to enter a room and make it his own and equally important, how to exit with panache.The boy grew up confident, comfortable in his own skin – even while the one-parent family struggled and he confronted bullies and scoffers of his perceived sexual orientation – and, as an outrageously eccentric adult, came to know international fame and fortune.As “Peter Williams” winds down though, happiness seems elusive and traits that he hated in others – bullying, condescension, bias – start to take root in him.Playwright Davis, who continues to create memorable and complex characters, says that Peter “walks the line between victim and villain on several occasions” in this play.Davis and Alemaedae surface periodically with these stage works and acclaimed past productions have included “Zooman & The Sign” and “F.B.E. (Family Before Everything),” stories of black families, ’hoods and mean streets, drugs and violence coupled with triumph and tenderness.The company (pronounced Ah-lem-ah-day) also loves sketch comedy and spoof. There are hilarious moments galore in “Peter Williams.”Davis and Peter Johnson co-direct – the latter also appears – with production assistance from Xavier Films and hosts Road Less Traveled. It’s a true team effort.Many new faces and a few Ujima and Robeson faces dot the cast: Monique Webb, Taura Stephens, LaRon Bradley, Andre Colon, Shantel Webb, Greg Chaffee, Jennifer Holmes, Roger Killian, Erin Moss, Leon Copeland – unforgettable as Grandpa Damn – and newcomer Sierra Johnson, perfect and promising in several roles.And Barry Williams? There is no doubt. As Peter Damn, he is fabulous.