“A health-food store in the hood is like a fried-chicken joint on a vegan compound,” sighs Mr. Rogers, a disgruntled inner-city homeopath—one of many outsize personalities Daniel Beaty inhabits in his solo show Through the Night. But Beaty’s prescription for curing communal woes, administered as a saga of herbalism and homilies, ends up delivering an overdose of facile sentimentality.
Mr. Rogers—and his precocious son, Eric, who tinkers with kava-kava and chamomile, concocting a panacea for neighborhood “broken hearts”—attract a motley assortment of spiritual seekers. There’s Dre, fresh from prison and fighting HIV; a closeted music executive; and a preacher with a Ho Hos addiction. Over one eventful evening, Beaty’s alter egos combat crises of identity and illness; as midnight nears, the saintly Eric engineers a miraculous mass cure.
Pacing around the stage, Beaty morphs deftly from mournful to ridiculous, bursting from comic anecdote into heartfelt spiritual, or from confessional monologue into rhythmic slam poetry. Through the Night mostly reads as a Christian-inflected stand-up routine. And it isn’t for cynics: Beaty oozes self-help pseudo-wisdom (“Two cups of healing for the pain we try to hide/Four cups of self-worth for the pain we try to hide”). More of his powerful voice, and fewer of his sappy rhymes, might have helped me make it through the night.