Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Farewell – The Play Tour
Dwight Brown, NNPA News Wire Film Critic | 2/28/2019, 10:01 a.m.
NNPA He has his fans. He has his detractors. Yet for 25 years, Tyler Perry has entertained audiences with Madea, his doppelganger, in theaters and on screens. For reasons known only to him, Perry has decided to hang up Madea’s heavy-duty bra, hausfrau flowered dresses and blue-rinse white powdered wigs.
He’s giving her the boot the way he introduced her, on the stage. There will be a movie too (Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral—opens March 1, 2019). But, if you want to watch the big man/woman sweat through her Lane Bryant dresses in person, one more time, you’ll have to see her live in this play.
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Farewell, a traveling show, pulled into town at the James L. Knight Center in downtown Miami. Folks who came to witness the end of a tradition were as interesting to watch as the actors onstage. Blue, orange, platinum blonde and pink hair could be spotted everywhere. Ladies in leopard print hot pants and matching shoes strutted around with their men in tow.
African American theatergoers dominated the space, though white and Latino fans were in the crowd too. And, if you had a penny for everyone over 80 years old, some with walkers and motorized wheel chairs, you’d be rich. Showtime.
A character named Darlene stands stage front, male dancers gyrate behind her as she sings Ann Peebles soul classic, “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” The stage splits open, revealing her living room. Darlene expects family and friends to stop by to help her celebrate her twenty something-year-old son Malik’s graduation from medical school. Malik, his extremely tall transgender sister Ti-Ti, his best friend Devin and others show up too. The audience is engaged, respectful and watching the family dynamics unfold.
The temperature in the room heats up when stars from Perry’s TV show Meet the Browns enter. Hot-blooded and elderly Aunt Bam (Cassie Davis) takes a seat at the dinette table. She’s perfectly cordial and lecherous as she ogles the handsome and much younger Devin. Mr. Brown (David Mann) walks in wearing a white suit patterned with loud neon-color shapes that look like narrow road signs. And, Cora Jean Simmons-Brown (Tamela Mann) comes in too. As each of the legendary actors enter, the crowd claps and oos and ahs.
With rapid fire, the characters exchange funny lines, accuse each other of all sorts of misdeeds and let their feelings be known (“I betcha you sweat prune juice”). The trumped-up drama and petty arguments escalate as Madea makes her entrance and the fans go wild. The big lady acknowledges members of her family and the audience, some of whom she heckles: “You know the show started at 8! Why are you late? Turn off that camera!” She engages the audience, harasses a few and the place is reeling with laughter as Perry breaks the fourth wall.
What ensues is a steady stream of comic putdowns, infidelity, betrayals and rivalries that build and build until Madea pulls a large silver object out of her purse and slams it on the table to gain control of the hysteria. The actors looked shocked. The audience too. It’s a gun. Chuckles turn into group laughing fits that are so forceful a few bladders must have lost control. As the first act ends, the tattered family heads out to attend the graduation ceremony.