While the new Stage Door at the College Street side of the PAC isn't the busiest spot in town, it's evolving into the performance art venue of choice for those who like to witness solo performances up close, daring and raw. Unlike the catechisms and the cavemen that play upstairs at the Booth Playhouse, Kahlil Ashanti's Basic Training was intensely personal, devoid of gimmickry, with moments of hard-earned illumination interspersed with the crowd-pleasing hilarity.
Ashanti could change characters quicker than an eyeblink as he guided us through his odyssey from diffident Air Force recruit and aspiring entertainer to confident trouper, family head, and man of the world. The delicious authenticity of it all snapped into place as soon as we faced Kahlil's muscular, wild-eyed basic training tormenter, "Sgt. None of Your Fuckin' Business." Some truly top-of-the-line profanity throughout the boot camp experience.
Our hero leaves home for the military shell-shocked by a mystery when his abused mother tells him that he has never met his real father. Finding out who he is becomes a two-part quest. Along the way, the most memorable folk we meet are a fellow recruit with Tourette's syndrome and a flaming diva in Tops in Blue, the Air Force's elite touring troupe -- where Ashanti earns his wings in stand-up comedy. We touched base with Ashanti's mellow mom and his weird uncle at numerous points, and just for the spice of it, our narrator yielded to the implausible temptation of steering his story back to Sgt. None of Your.
Adrenaline must have flowing at last Wednesday's performance. Ushers told us that we'd be detained without intermission for 65 minutes, but Ashanti clocked at a cool 60:12. Helluva ride.