Single Black Female
nytheatre.com review by Melanie N. Lee
June 10, 2008
The two hip characters in playwright Lisa B. Thompson's two-act play Single Black Female state that no one wants to hear what an "SBF" has to say. Anita Hill, Condi Rice, and Diahann Carroll's Julia notwithstanding, no one wants to know that the educated SBF exists. So SBF 1 (Riddick Marie), a black-haired, artistic, intellectual college professor, and SBF 2 (Soara-Joye Ross), a red-haired, fashionable lawyer, inform the world, with insight, hilarity, and attitude, about being black, female, single, and middle-class in today's Manhattan.
The slim, thirtysomething roommates spout a plethora of rapid-fire cultural references from Charlie Rose to chitlins. "This ain't 'Sex and the Inner City Women'!" they quip. With versatile acting the two stars take on many roles besides the lawyer and professor. Marie plays several men, including a "brotha" in ghetto wear giving the type of street pickup rap that turns women off, SBF 2's charming father, who "fixed cars and ran women," a boyfriend, and a gynecologist. Among Ross's characters are Jennifer the Gap clerk, a grandmother, and several aunts who every Christmastime pester SBF 1, "When are you getting married?"
Single Black Female, directed by Colman Domingo and presented by the New Professional Theatre, covers numerous topics including careers, men, fashion, men, interracial dating, men, family, men, computer dating, men, holidays—and did I mention men?
In a segment about "Malcolm Ex and all my other exes," multicolored leaflets of photos drop from the ceiling as the two women reminisce about those who got away. One man that an SBF rejected as too unfashionably dressed was recently seen in the park with his new wife ("She had him dressed nicely in Banana Republic weekend wear!"). Another ex was an ideal man—"41, divorced, and father of none"—except that "he lied about the divorce—they were only separated!"
Cyberdating raises the question, "How could a woman find love through a cold object that crashes, freezes, and can give me a virus?" The SBFs pass up bios of men who want "anything but a black woman" and create computer monikers like "Cocoalawyer".
Racism, of course, gets major sendups. The lawyer is one of six black women in a firm with over 400 employees—and the black women hate each other. "You cannot hide in cyberspace," the SBFs bemoan. "They have a nigger detector... everything's fine till we get to my zip code."
SBF 2 fears her male gynecologist, who's amazed that she hasn't already pushed out some kids. She imagines yeast infections during slavery times, which SBF 1 acts out: "Massa? I can't work in no field today. My feminine itchin's got me real bad!" The gynecological examination is the one segment of the play with broad slapstick.
One woman, disdaining a man who likes hamburger and ribs, asks herself, "What about our culture? Our community? Maybe that's why we're alone." The SBFs wonder if all their self-improvement costs them the grand prize. "We have PhD's, IRAs, 401Ks...and Tiger Woods marries a nanny?!"
Some of this brilliant, culturally-laden dialogue gets lost in the speedy delivery and swallowed up in the background music. That said, Single Black Female offers significant glimpses into the trials and triumphs of the 21st-century sister who "by 30...has found her style [and] now she's looking for someone to like her style"—someone who makes her feel like "chocolate magic sunshine."