In Full Effect, at Angel Island. With his well-scrubbed good looks and casual dress, Cleetus Friedman doesn’t exactly seem the B-boy type–he looks more like a weekend warrior. But when it comes to hip-hop fandom, Friedman is about as hard-core as they get. In both of his one-man performances he’s made it his personal mission to spread the gospel of hip-hop–and if there’s one thing he’s entirely successful at, it’s making his appreciation of the music and culture burn brightly throughout his shows.
Like last year’s Don’t Burn My House, Friedman’s latest solo effort takes an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach: raps and short character studies are interspersed with longer sketches. And his delivery is so earnest that it’s hard not to laugh even at the show’s most obvious, pandering gags–for ultimately In Full Effect lacks depth. Sadly, Friedman never delves beneath the surface of his characters. The show would also benefit from an infusion of energy: the combination of Friedman’s laid-back stage presence and Michael Greco’s leaden direction slows the pace to a virtual standstill in some of the more dramatic moments.
Hip-hop needs a few more folks like Friedman, performers who approach the genre with a mix of intelligence, warmth, and critical humor, but he needs to make his material and delivery more pointed.