Livin' Fat 

Three stars

Etheridge Knight Theater.

First published in 1979, Judi Ann Mason’s Livin’ Fat plays like retro black television, reminiscent of (for better and worse) The Jeffersons, Good Times, and What’s Happening, the one it most resembles. Because of recession, under-employment or ugly racism, a 22-year-old college grad is working as a bank janitor, when he becomes the accidental benefactor of a bank heist. He plots with his oversized and oddly named buddy Boo to spend the found loot without telling his working class parents. Young David’s moral dilemma takes a back seat to antics that would play very well to small screen audiences. Teenage sister campaigns for an 8-track stereo, but bible-thumping Mama thinks all black music is “the blues” and therefore dangerous. Her mother, Big Mama, dresses as all TV grandmas must, endearingly and hysterically in a housecoat, slippers, and nylon knee-his. Meanwhile, Boo gets more and more clownish with every expensive outfit he buys. Director Kendra Mitchell and her very able cast make it all amusing. If they had condensed the two acts into 30 TV minutes, they would have drawn teary-eyed cackles and snorts. According to their website, the Etheridge Knight Theater was born this year, the offspring of several years of Etheridge Knight Festival community arts programming. They are more than up to this level of comedy. It looks like they have what it takes to aim higher.

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