TRIPLE THREAT, But Not the One You’re Thinking Of — Review
“There are places I can’t go if I want to keep my light.”
It’s one of the last lines of the play. It can be incredibly healing and healthy to revisit and unpack our past trauma, relationships, and the like, but there comes a point where we need to pause in order to move forward with light and love. James T. Lane’s latest work Triple Threat explores just that.
From outward appearances, Lane is a successful performer, in touch with his body, a great singer, and has a smile that could brighten anyone’s day. He was last seen on Broadway just a few months back in Chicago as Billy Flynn. But underneath these surface observations lay a life rife with racism, abuse, and addiction. Though the play’s overall structure requires a bit of clarifying, the means by which Lane reveals each low point in his life is something to behold.
The first aspect of his life thus far he unravels is his gayness–a variety of versions of Lane appear on various screens, each representing different fetishes and kinks within the gay community. These videos vary in tone, from fun and lighthearted to dark and twisted, each lets us know that he’s headed down a potentially very slippery slope. After taking ecstasy at a club, Lane seeks out more drugs, eventually turning to crack.
As he sits down on the street corner to begin smoking crack, a 1950’s infomercial-style video appears on screen, where Lane pleasantly and playfully describes how to create a crack pipe out of things he already has on hand. This time, the video starts out humorous, the audience laughing along, but quickly turns bleak, as the all too true reality begins to settle in–this was not a one time experiment for Lane, but rather a part of his daily life for years. He went on tour with Fame, attended Penn State, and moved to New York, all while addicted to crack cocaine.
Then there’s the ever-present racism that Lane faced while pursuing a career in musical theatre, noting being one of 30 black men fighting for one role and being asked to act more like Kevin Hart and Will Smith (he is from Philadelphia after all) while performing the notorious “To be, or not to be” soliloquy of Hamlet fame. This throughline leads to one of the funniest, yet more thought-provoking moments of the show; Lane sees that a grocery store has fried chicken on sale for Black History Month and exclaims, “That’s America folks!”
One through-line of the production is the use of the song “On Broadway,” as it’s first introduced as Lane’s audition song, and later is folded in sporadically throughout the show. Of course Lane’s vocals are right on point, even when the song is used in darker, slower moments of the play. His dancing is another highlight of the piece, with him taking us back all the way to first grade when he began dancing. Those years of training and performing are clear onstage, with Lane finding the right moments for tension, flow, relaxation, and expression just through his movements. He’s so connected to his body that it feels as if most of the choreography flows through him, and the lighting and sound added immensely to this feeling. The execution and design of the lighting and sound, especially during the dance/movement parts of the show is superb. Each sound cue is met with a lighting cue that just feels right–as if Lane, the lights, and sound are all one being, perfectly moving together in unison.
The end of the play tries to place each story into one of three distinct categories, making Lane a triple threat, but not in the traditional theatre sense (acting, dancing, and singing), but rather a trifecta of barriers he’s had to overcome to get to where he is today, both literally and figuratively. Now, Lane seems to have been able to see all the turmoil he experienced in the early 2000’s from a new lens, all giving him the inspiration and courage to create and perform this new work.
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