THE MAKING OF THE BLACK MAN
nytheatre.com review by Sarika Chawla
Five men command the stage, each one
representing the role of the black man in five unique ways. the
making of the black man, written and directed by sean, presents 90
minutes of prose, lyrics, beats and movement to tell the story of these
August 15, 2002
The central hinge of the piece is a character who calls himself blacque (Nhojj), a dreadlocked man dressed in black, who moves with fluidity and sings with clarity, and at times slinks across the stage holding a mask to his face. He expresses the voice of the past, one that has lost his children, with each generation looking less and less like him. braun (Jerry James) portrays an educated professional, uniformed in a suit as he struggles to break through the glass ceiling. He is ashamed of his compatriots, bleu (N’Daba), blanco (Edward V. Corcino) and red (Joanes Prosper), whose greatest pleasure comes from hanging on the corner, rolling and smoking blunts. In return, these three look down upon braun, who insists that he is not black but brown; American, not African-American. Ultimately it is blacque’s voice from forgotten times that breaks them free from their stereotypes, reuniting the five men into brotherhood.
After a time, the prose tends to be heavy-handed in its explanations and arguments of what represents today’s black man. After much back and forth between the characters, the show drags down into a debate of which one is truly keeping it real. However, the dialogue is broken up by movements, clapping and stomping that are satisfyingly simple and clean, and by music that rings of melancholy. Five stereotypes have been plucked and presented as very real characters, yet one prominent representation is missing—he who creates work such as the making of the black man, connecting the ancient art of storytelling to today’s culture in order to educate, entertain and enlighten.