Home #Hwoodtimes The Brilliant Deconstruction of Cultural Prejudices and Neurotic Creativity in A Strange...

The Brilliant Deconstruction of Cultural Prejudices and Neurotic Creativity in A Strange Loop

A Strange Loop
The Ensemble Cast in "A Strange Loop" at Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theatre (Photo by Alessandra Mello)

At the Ahmanson Theatre, A Strange Loop, the hit Broadway musical in Los Angeles for a limited run (June 5 – June 30, 2024), is a stunningly powerful inspiration.

By John Lavitt

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 06-11-2024


— Alan Cumming

There is no question that A Strange Loop is one of the finest and most inspirational renderings of how fraught and overwhelmed the creative process is by the traumas of an artist’s past and the baggage of cultural history. As a gay, African-American writer in his mid-twenties who hates his day job, Usher dreams of writing a musical that will revolutionize his life and open so many closed doors. What is so intriguing about A Strange Loop at the Ahmanson Theatre is the idea of being a musical about someone trying to write a musical. However, as a creative entity, the writer is trampled by the unforgiving thoughts in his head.

A triumph by the Center Theatre Group, the host committee for the production comprises community leaders and philanthropists who have committed to supporting the show. With book, music, and lyrics by the ultra-talented Michael R. Jackson, the content of the production is undeniably brilliant. Moreover, the musical is directed by Stephen Bracket with a passionate verve and choreographed with boundless energy by Raja Feather Kelly.

A Strange Loop
Jordan Barbour and Malachi McCaskill in A Strange Loop (Photo By Alessandra Mello)

From the curtain rising until the end, the music and movement, emotion and expression all continue at a blistering pace. It is not surprising that A Strange Loop won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2022 Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical. While straddling the Zeitgeist with thematic plays on diversity and inclusivity challenges, the book of the musical remains humanistic and compassionate at heart.

As Usher, Malachi McCaskill keeps the performance grounded in a reality needed to suspend disbelief effectively. By being emotionally relatable and down-to-earth, he allows the production’s fantastic elements to be believable and tangible for the audience. Among the impressive supporting cast of “Thoughts,” a few standout performances exist.

A Strange Loop
Historical Thoughts Manifested in “A Strange Loop” at the Ahmanson (Photo by Alessandra Mello)

As Thought 4, John Andrew Morrison stands out when he assumes the role of Usher’s worried and slightly deluded mother. As a man playing an older woman, he captures the mom’s inability to accept her son’s alternative lifestyle and sexual identity. In complete denial, she leans on the Church to cure her wayward child. As Thought 5, Jordan Barbour also takes on the role of Usher’s befuddled father. Although he does not want to reject his son, he cannot access any form of actual acceptance. He scuttles past the issue, sinking into the peaceful morass of ignorance that feels like bliss in this context.

At times, with all of the thoughts and contextualization, the deconstruction of the cultural prejudices and neurotic creativity in A Strange Loop is hard to follow. Indeed, the musical requires an audience member to incorporate so much complexity and meaning amid a torrent of laughter and song. Ultimately, however, the effort is worth the price because the payoff is profound. As Usher realizes a profound sense of authenticity, we are rewarded by participating in his journey.

Photo by Alessandra Mello Courtesy of the Center Theatre Group