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UPSTAIRS AT BASIE, A LITTLE TOUGH ‘LOVE’

Dunbar Repertory Company presents Gail Wynn Huland El’s “dark comedy” GREEN HONEY LOVE in the Count Basie Theatre’s second-floor rehearsal space beginning tonight.

By TOM CHESEK

In a cubby of culture that’s long been home to some best kept secrets of local life, most interesting things have happened not so much under our collective noses, but just one flight of stairs over street level. We’re thinking here of McKay Imaging Gallery; the makeshift comedy club at the Dub; and Gerda Liebman’s Gallery 135 inside Monmouth Street’s Red Bank Community Church.

Beginning this Friday, August 17, and continuing for eleven more performances through September 2, the Monmouth County-based community stage troupe Dunbar Repertory Company returns with a new offering at the Count Basie Theatre — not the ornate auditorium of the venerable venue, but the second-story rehearsal space that’s often used for the educational programs of the Basie’s Performing Arts Academy.

Produced by Brookdale Community College faculty member (and participant on the Basie board) Darrell Lawrence Willis Sr., the play Green Honey Love comes to local audiences courtesy of the company that’s brought the annual Black Nativity stage show to the Count’s crib in the Christmas season. Here at the tail end of summertime’s dog days, the Dunbar team switches gears, from reverently joyful to raucously joke-filled.

Written by Bloomfield playwright Gail Wynn Huland El, the comic crowdpleaser is pitched as a “dark comedy centered around greed, lust, and betrayal…a hilarious mix of murder, deception, and mayhem.”  The script — which Willis featured a few years back as a reading in his annual Juneteenth Urban Arts Festival at BCC’s Long Branch facility — has since seen small productions in several cities.

In this full (if modestly scaled) staging under the direction of longtime Dunbar associate Mark Antonio Henderson of Asbury Park, a car accident leaves an unfaithful wife named Belinda (Sequoia Davis of Oakhurst) with a dead boyfriend, a pronounced limp, the mind of a small child — and a multimillion dollar insurance settlement that sparks some sleazy schemes on the part of her husband George (Craig S. Coleman of South Orange), their “best friends” (Will Nash of Neptune, Samantha Mohammed-Jackson of Asbury Park) and the local lustful mailman (Ramon James Morris of Long Branch). Did we mention it’s a comedy?

Performance times for Green Honey Love are 8 pm Fridays (August 17, 24, and 31), 3 pm and 8 pm Saturdays (August 18, 25 and September 1), and 4 pm Sundays (August 19, 26 and September 2). Seating is limited; reservations are required and tickets ($20; $15 for seniors, students and groups of 10 or more) can be purchased by calling (732)370-8982.

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