Theater Review

Madea Goes to Jail

By Tyler Perry

Murat Theatre

March 2-5 Tyler Perry in 'Madea Goes to Jail' My brother (in-law) is a conservative minister whose idea of a vacation is Thanksgiving weekend at my mother’s house. So when I heard long bursts of laughter from his bedroom, I asked my sister what he was doing. She said, “He has all of the Madea plays that are on DVD and he’s watching them.”

It isn’t often that one gets the opportunity to experience smart comedy. Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail is a smart and entertaining play with muse, music and message pleasing to any theatrical palate. While Tyler Perry’s latest film, Madea’s Family Reunion, became a No. 1 box office hit in movie theaters nationwide, he brought his nationally touring hit play to Indianapolis. The performance proved worthy of the diverse audience that packed the Murat Theatre Thursday evening. Some of the audience had traveled from as far away as Columbus, Ohio, to see the play; we found it moving and funny.

In this excerpt from Madea’s life, she gets caught by the police and speaking her mind lands her in jail, where she meets the mother of a teen-ager who is in foster care. Being a straight talkin’, gun-totin’ softie, she agrees to take the child in. Additional family drama comes from the nephew and his wife, who live with Madea while the wife is getting her master’s degree.

No minstrel show here. From the opening scene to the closing the play engages the audience, even before Madea comes on stage. Cassi Davis’ portrayal of the character Miss Ella is a strong, believable caricature of the classic next door neighbor and friend. In fact, each member of the ensemble cast held their own throughout the play, playing nicely off of the well-timed ad libs of Mabel “Madea” Simmons, played by Tyler Perry.

And they can sing; really sing. The incredible vocal range of Crystal Collins caught the audience by surprise and the soulful renditions of veteran singer Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley Grace, as well as the surprisingly solid tenor of Perry himself, had the audience cheering.

Madea speaks the truth about life and love. Her truth is well-packaged to make us laugh and tap into good memories evoked by classic music. The Christian undertones of the play were by no means overbearing.

The play seems to drag a bit at the end, perhaps because so much of what comes before is high voltage and fast paced — one expects the roller coaster ride to never end.

We haven’t heard the last from Madea this year. A book, Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings, is due in bookstores on April 11. If you have yet to experience Madea, go see the movie. Then buy your tickets early when the tour bus stops here again.