DVD Review - What My Husband Doesn't Know

David E. Talbert is a graduate of Morgan State University in Baltimore. He studied film at NYU, but Talbert has spent the past two decades writing and directing stage plays. His first was Tellin' It Like Tiz' in 1991. Talbert won the NAACP award for his play The Fabric of a Man. He won the New York Literary Award for Love in the Nick of Tyme.

What My Husband Doesn't Know is Talbert's 13th play and it marks his 20th year working in theater. What My Husband Doesn't Know began its 28-city tour in February 2011 and ended in May 2011. As he's done with previous productions, Talbert filmed the stage performance before it finished its run. He edited it with some post-production and included some additional material. It was presented on BET, Sunday, December 18, 2011 and was then released on DVD in February 2012, a year since it debuted on stage.

The story is one told in flashback with the mystery of a murder confession as the bookend to a steamy romance between a wife and a plumber. The play is brilliantly written and brilliantly performed with great melodrama, great comedic moments and also great music. Talbert might have done this on other DVDs, but, along with the 28-minute, Behind-the-Scenes documentary and the 4-minute, Walking-the-Set featurette, Talbert does a commentary track.

Talbert's commentary is more than just a typical director's audio track. His commentary is essentially a lesson or lecture on how to write, produce and direct a stage play. It's almost a how-to with Talbert offering up great tips. Talbert is very much a teacher or professor where he speaks as if his prospective DVD watchers are all aspiring playwrights. His words might come across as didactic, but he's very easygoing and affable, while providing great insight into the process.

Most of Talbert's lessons are on writing. He talks about the importance of set decoration and blocking, but the majority of what he says goes to the printed page and making it perfect. He says that a lot of this play is inspired by his earlier plays, most notably his first in terms of its sexual innuendo and double entendres. One main joke involves viagra.

He also goes into structure, the incorporation of music, how it's supposed to be used to best effect, and character, how a character is not supposed to be all good or all bad. He says, "The magic is in the middle." Characters are more interesting when they're in between and he really digs into good storytelling techniques, techniques that are best if your aim is to perform in front of a live audience.

Making the printed page perfect or as close to perfect as possible is crucial, but, as Talbert says, once the curtain goes up, it's all out of his hands. Having people behind the stage and especially on the stage who are more than capable is crucial as well. This is probably why Talbert spends a good chunk talking about his actors. He particularly points to the performance of actor Brian White as one that people should take note.

Brian J. White is a former athlete. He went from modeling to acting about a decade ago and is most recognizable from films such as Brick (2005) and Stomp the Yard (2007). Talbert was going to cast him in a film called Baggage Claim, but he decided to have White do this play instead, what turned out to be White's first stage play.

White is Paul Johnson, a plumber who works on the construction site run by a wealthy businessman who also needs plumbing work at home. Paul is first introduced as walking sex appeal, pure temptation, but there's more to him. Paul seduces the wealthy businessman's wife, Lena Summer, played by Michelle Williams. Williams is a R&B singer, formerly of the group Destiny's Child. Williams left that group to pursue a career on Broadway. She got roles in The Color Purple and Aida, as well as Chicago in London. As a side note, the lead singer of Destiny's Child was Beyoncé who started her own clothing company called House of Deréon. That company provided Williams with her wardrobe in the play.

Clifton Davis co-stars as Franklin Summer, the wealthy businessman. Talbert points out that Davis is a Broadway star going back decades. He's a Tony Award winner and he's a songwriter of such hits as "Never Can Say Goodbye." Ann Nesby is featured as Lena's mother, Elenor. Talbert included that Nesby is a songwriter too, having penned a song for Pattie LaBelle. She was also a part of the vocal ensemble Sounds of Blackness. She even wrote a song for this play, which she belts out fantastically.

Rounding out the cast is Broadway actor Horace V. Rogers who plays Pastor Braddock, Chloe Spencer from Talbert's home state of Maryland, and standup comics, Tiffany Haddish and Esau McGraw who definitely get the most laughs. Finally, there are four songs here, written by Brent Jones, which aren't enough to qualify it along most other musicals, but gives this show enough of everything and balances it well.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 53 mins.


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