Tessa Auerjonois and Khandi Alexander in a scene from 'Bones' (photo: Craig Schwartz)

*Khandi Alexander is fierce, an acting force to be reckoned with.   

The roles she’s chosen to play over the years have been potent and powerful.

From “The Corner,” to “CSI Miami” to her current role as Ladonna Batiste-Williams on HBO’s “Treme,” Alexander has always fully inhabited a role giving it depth, feeling and a firm spine.

There is no difference in the theatrical drama, “Bones,” currently making its world premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City (California).

In the play, Alexander plays Claire, an alcoholic-mother who has reunited with her adult twins in a seedy airport motel to have it out for what will ultimately be the last time.  Alexander is unrelenting. There are very few actresses possessing her acting chops. Once she hits the stage, you can’t take your eyes off of her. Even when she’s sitting silently, her demeanor is speaking volumes.

The play starts off gentle enough, but quickly escalates into something so uncomfortable and unsettling, by the time it ends, the audience is drenched with emotions.

The subject matter is incest and child molestation.

Khandi Alexander & Tory Kittles in 'Bones' (photo: Craig Schwartz)

The question is what did or did not happen to the twins and who did or did not do it to them when they were children?

This play, which oozes Greek tragedy, is a pleasantly disturbing look inside a family confronted with its own ugly secrets that have been individually locked away in places too painful to revisit.

It’s pleasant because playwright Dael Orlandersmith, who recently appeared at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in her one-woman show, “Stoop Stories,” pulls no punches. She’s uncovered ugly wounds and put incest right in the audience’s face. It’s disturbing because it’s incest – that unspoken sexual crime that can leave an unwilling recipient eternally broken.

What makes Orlandersmith’s writing so brilliant is  it’s authentic texture and the uncertainty of who is telling the truth.

There’s the children’s truth and the mother’s truth. And, then there’s the truth.  The three don’t always coexist in this three-person drama.

Orlandersmith’s writing, coupled with the superb acting of Alexander, Tessa Auberjonois and Tory Kittles, plus the live music of Nedra Wheeler on bass and Doug Webb on saxophone, creates a pure and complete theatrical satisfaction.

“Bones” is not just a play, it’s an experience. In fact, director Gordon Edelstein has made it a public therapy session.

“Bones” is one of the most unforgettable, uncomfortable, exhausting, intense theatrical experiences you’ll ever endure.

All the elements are there.  Great writing. Fabulous acting. Sensitive directing. Affective music. Intimate set. Splendid costumes. Emotional lighting.

Kudos to everyone involved!

“Bones” was commissioned by Center Theatre Group and presented as part of DouglasPlus at the CTG/Kirk Douglas Theatre.

“Bones” stars Khandi Alexander, Tessa Auberjonois and Tory Kittles. It features Nedra Wheeler on bass and Doug Webb on saxophone. It’s written by Dael Orlandersmith and directed by Gordon Edelstein.


Darlene Donloe


“Bones,” Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Aug. 6-7; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sun., Aug. 8; closes Aug. 8; $20; (213) 628-2772 or www. CenterTheatreGroup.org.

On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent), “Bones” gets an E (Excellent).

Darlene Donloe is an entertainment journalist based in Southern california. Contact her at [email protected].