Secluded and surrounded by dolls in her father’s basement, Holly really is down in her own heaven. “Holly Down in Heaven,” written by Kara Lee Corthron and directed by Brian Evans, is a dark comedy about 15-year-old Holly (Lauryn Glenn). She’s spoiled by her widowed father (DeVante’ Malone) and has always gotten her way, is a born-again Christian, and she just happens to be pregnant.
Holly has exiled herself in the basement and told herself it’s God’s punishment for her sin. She confides in the dolls that surround her, especially Dr. McNuthin (Caleb Crawford), her shrink puppet. While in the basement, Holly’s father hires a tutor, Mia (Janai Lashon), to teach Holly subjects like math and African-American studies since she stopped attending school. Over the next nine months, audience members see the transition within Holly from child to adult.
Race plays a significant part throughout the play, not only in the cast, but in Holly’s dolls as she has organized them by race. She is ecstatic about her collections of African dolls and her favorite collection, the Asians. The race differences between the dolls plays into the comedy within the play with jokes pertaining to their own races, which dolls were Holly’s favorite based on race and even the race of Holly’s unborn baby.
The small cast worked so well together with their on-stage chemistry. The tension between Mia and Holly’s father, the conflict between Yager (Aidan Tracy), the father of Holly’s babies, and Holly’s father, and the struggle between Holly and Mia were perfectly acted out to closely resemble real-life tension, struggles and conflict.
Lauryn Glenn, does an amazing job acting as a spoiled brat yelling and throwing tantrums until she can get her way. The work between Holly and the puppeteers (Caleb Crawford, Zenzia Waters, Aidan Tracy) only added to the “heaven” that Holly was living in and created the real relationship she had with her dolls. The puppeteers brought Holly’s dolls to live for not only her but for the audience.
A staircase and small window that Yager, are the only portals in and out to the outside world. The set design accomplished the closed-off world that Holly lives in during her pregnancy. The ceiling beams and unfinished walls succeeded at showing an unfinished basement as the main setting. Within the basement, a door leads to a room where scenes that couldn’t be shown took place, such as an ultrasound on Holly.
The lighting throughout the play resembled that of a basement. String lights on the ceiling beams changed based on the scene, light shining in through the basement window and the glow of the television as Holly plays video games put the audience members into the scenery as a fly on the wall watching the plot unfold. The on and off of light resembling the rhythm of a heartbeat gave a visual that otherwise would not have been able to be shown.
As the dolls talk and move around, the shelves around the room light up and glow shades of blue and purple. The glow and light focusing on different dolls continue as scenes transition from one to another. This took away any distractions created by the set or cast moving around.
“Holly Down in Heaven” is a successful crossover between MTV’s reality show, “16 and Pregnant” and Disney Pixar’s “Toy Story”. The overall production of this coming-of-age story was an ultimate success due to the amazing cast members, directing, original writing with funny dialogue, and abundance of talking dolls making “Holly Down in Heaven” a fun must see play on campus.
This review was a product of my Journalism 3630 Reviewing and Criticism class. Edits to my original reviews have been made based on comments by my professor. Please contact me for original copies.