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Don’t drink this water: Mixed Blood play is disappointing ‘sequel’

A note to start: When the audience applauds at what they think is the end of the play, and then said play goes on for another 15 minutes — underscoring the main points made over the last hour and a half one more time with everything short of a PowerPoint display — it may be time to rethink the ending.

Then again, the ending is far from the only thing wrong with “A Cool Drink a Water,” the disappointing “sequel” to the classic “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Insight has been replaced by a by-the-numbers plot and jokes that would fit in better on an early 1990s Fox sitcom.

Playwright Thomas W. Jones II has the kernel of a good idea — move the characters from the classic play forward to 2010, but it falters in most ways beyond that. The plot — involving bickering siblings Benita and Walt and selling the house that their mother bought all those years ago — doesn’t have a lot of traction, and the subplots — fathers and sons fighting; older men with sexual trouble — barely rise to the level of cliché.

Cast members do their best with the material, led by the playwright himself, who makes Walt a strutting peacock who doesn’t just command but suffocates whenever he is in the room. The always excellent Sonja Parks shows some real pain in Benita, who has lost her sense of hope after a disastrous trip to Africa with her husband, Asa (the also strong Ansa Akyea).

No matter how hard they try, there’s no getting over a plot riddled with holes (wouldn’t the characters be much older if they moved into the house more than 50 years ago and clearly remember the death of JFK?) and easy jokes and solutions in place of real exploration of, well, any of the issues of race, class, expectations, the generation gap or anything else that is touched on in this mess.

“A Cool Drink a Water” runs through Oct. 10 at Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St. Minneapolis. Tickets are $12 to $28. For information, call (612) 338-6131 or visit online.

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