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Reviews - Variety
|Kim Fields keeps hope alive in "Pandora's Trunk"
Fields' efforts are amplified by the fluid helming of Che'Rae Adams and the synergistic offstage characterizations of Indira Gibson.
Created as the first female mortal by the gods of Olympus, the original Pandora got into a whole lot of trouble when she opened the forbidden box and unleashed all the diseases, sorrows, vice and crime that would afflict humanity throughout the ages. The only entity she managed to keep after she closed the box was hope.
Fields' Pandora just soars as a ferociously discontented adoptee driven to learn the truth about her birth mother despite the surly, dismissive attitudes of her chain-smoking Jehovah's Witness adoptive mother Audrey (Gibson). Acting as Pandora's conscience is her constantly disapproving inner voice, Hope (also Gibson).
Living in the Jamaica section of Queens, the youthful Pandora is constantly sneaking up to Audrey's attic to rhapsodize over the contents of her trunk, the only tangible legacy from her birth mother.
Using the myriad contents of the trunk as launching pads, Fields' Pandora radiates an irrepressible energy as she fantasizes over the true identity of her mother. Opening the trunk lid, she impishly informs the audience that her rampant curiosities "get me in trouble now and it did back then."
Constantly breaking the fourth wall that separates her character from the audience, Fields turns each fantasy into a tour de force audience-interactive standup routine. Finding a mask, she takes on the persona of a thoroughly hip Batgirl who confesses she was impregnated by the Joker, "who never offered to pay child support."
Discarding the mask, Pandora dons a flowered hat and reminisces about Rosemary, a nice member of her adoptive mother's church who was ousted from the congregation.
In a twinkling, she is immersed in a fantasy that has Rosemary coming under the seductive spell of a charlatan minister who is in fact the devil himself. Their passion-filled union results in Pandora as Rosemary's baby, daughter of Satan.
The highlight of the show is Pandora's imagined turn as a pop diva, who is grilled by Oprah (Gibson) on the daytime talk show about her born-out-of-wedlock daughter. This leads to Fields' pre-recorded "Miss Understood," a comical musical rationalization of a poor ghetto girl's rise to the top and the sacrifices she needed to make along the way.
At play's end, Fields makes an impressive emotional transformation when Pandora is offered the opportunity to know the exact truth about her mother or continue to live in her make-believe world.
Gibson -- who remains obscured throughout, performing behind a series of screens -- impressively manages to connect with the onstage machinations of Fields. She is decidedly effective when a dying, emotion-drained Audrey finally reveals the sad truth behind her adoption of the infant Pandora.
The production is enhanced greatly by the evocative sets, sound and lights of DeWayne Porter, Michael Hooker and Darryl Palagi, respectively.