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When Madea (Tyler Perry) gets sick, her family comes to her aid. What they don't realize is that they're the ones who need her help. As always, Madea's cockeyed outlook on life saves the day and guarantees side-splitting laughs along the way.
The moment the six-foot-tall, chain-smoking, gun-toting grandmother Madea walks on stage, it's clear that her creator, Tyler Perry, is a man who knows and appreciates his audience. Perry is the writer/director/star of the surprise hit Diary of a Mad Black Woman; like that movie, the stage play I Can Do Bad All By Myself mixes melodrama, gospel music, and freewheeling improvisational comedy--all the more loose and rambunctious because it was recorded live. In I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Madea's two granddaughters grapple with man trouble: One sister is now engaged to the other's husband, while the other resists the attentions of an ex-con with good intentions. While this angst unfolds, the heavy emotions are punctuated by rousing gospel singing and Madea's barbed, heretical wit. There's nothing sophisticated or subtle here; Perry wants to give his audience a good laugh, wring a tear from their eyes, and send them home with renewed faith in the Lord. Diary of a Mad Black Woman may have made Perry a nationally-recognized name, but watching him live on stage makes it clear he was a star long before the movie came out--the rapport he has with the crowd is palpable. --Bret Fetzer