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Twisted Melodies ~ Mosaic Theatre

Jordan Wright
June 27, 2019 

Twisted Melodies, a dramatic interpretation of the last day of Donny Hathaway’s life, touches us on so many levels.  As a consummate songwriter and performing artist, Hathaway was one of the most enduring talents during the height of the 1970’s R&B scene.  An accomplished pianist, soul, blues and jazz singer, and collaborator with Roberta Flack (The Closer I Get To You), he borrowed from his gospel roots reinterpreting his melodic memories into one of the most recognizably appealing sounds of the decade.  For area audiences it’s a special treat to experience this powerful production and revisit some of his music, as Hathaway was well known in DC circles where he attended Howard University during the Civil Rights era.

Twisted Melodies at Baltimore Center Stage, in associa- Pictured: Kelvin Roston, Jr. © Richard Anderson

Making its DC premiere at Mosaic Theatre in association with New York’s famed The Apollo Theater, its writer, star, and musical director, Kelvin Roston, Jr., presents an indelible foray into Hathaway’s psychological turmoil.  Roston’s skill at becoming Hathaway’s doppëlganger captures the artist in his most fragile period after he had been hospitalized several times with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and was living on a dangerous cocktail of medications that served only to increase his fears and insecurities.

Twisted Melodies at Baltimore Center Stage, in association with Congo Square Theatre Company Pictured: Kelvin Roston, Jr. © Richard Anderson

Set in a New York hotel room where Hathaway is surrounded by his demons – a ghost named Duke, disembodied voices and fears of his room being bugged – the terrified singer fights to keep it together on the eve of his comeback.  “I gotta focus!  Twist it into melodies.  Everybody is depending on me.”  Interspersed with songs by Hathaway and other artists – Leon Russell, George Clinton, Stevie Wonder – played on an electric piano, Roston dramatizes Hathaway’s decline as both an artist and father.

Twisted Melodies at Baltimore Center Stage, in association with Congo Square Theatre Company Pictured: Kelvin Roston, Jr. © Richard Anderson

Roston’s tour de force portrayal of a tormented soul in full-blown crisis mode is skillful beyond imagining.  Not only is his beautifully written script filled with passion and raw emotion, but more incredibly, he takes on Hathaway’s entire persona in what would be a physically and emotionally draining role for any actor.  Along the way, he reaches out to the audience, as though we are a part of his rehabilitation.  As his “angels” and “muses”, he calls out to us for support, acknowledging our presence as he strives to transform his anger and weakness into beauty.

Highly recommended.

Directed by the award-winning Derrick Sanders, Set Design by Courtney O’Neill, Costumes by Dede Ayite, Lights by Alan C. Edwards, Sound by Christopher M. LaPorte, and Projections by Mike Tutaj.  Presented in co-production with Baltimore Center Stage and The Apollo Theater.

Through July 21st at the Atlas Center for the Performing Arts in the Theresa and Jane Lang Theatre – 1333 H Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.  For tickets and info on post show discussions, special rates and discounts visit or call the box office at 202.399.7993 ext. 2.  Valet parking at 1360 H Street, NE.

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