nytheatre.com review by Thomas Bradshaw
August 14, 2006
When I walked into the lobby of the Gene Frankel Theatre where Black Stuff is playing, I was greeted by Martin Luther Goodman who claimed to be the true representative of the black race. He handed me a card with his website and phone number. When I walked into the theatre a man was standing on a ledge moving robotically. He was repeating phrases such as: "I am under qualified for every position, Be careful what you say, I'm easily offended, I am responsible for 90% of crime, and I like to hang out on corners and drink 40 ounces." Clearly the writers (LeVan D. Hawkins and Alexander Thomas) are attempting to highlight stereotypes about American Blacks. The play consists of Hawkins and Jay Ward acting out a variety of situations regarding the subject of blackness.
At the beginning I found the antics of the play to be amusing. I thought that perhaps their depictions were ironic. I soon discovered that they were not and after about a half hour the play began to feel oppressive and heavy-handed.
I think the play attempts to avert typical assumptions that people have about black people, but it ends up re-enforcing the very stereotypes it is trying to debunk. The play is also very preachy. I think the play is designed to make people walk away feeling bad about themselves for the oppression that has been inflicted upon blacks. But instead I just walked out feeling tired. The play was 1 hour and 30 minutes. One and a half hours of: "Don't bring no white woman into my house" and lessons about how to walk black and not seem like an Uncle Tom.
Oh. But the best part of the play is when they asked for two audience volunteers who were black men. When no one volunteered, one of the actors pointed to me and another guy and said: "Get up here motherfuckers!"
And we did.
Then I was made to hang a very large piece of wood around my neck and the actors attached pictures of Colin Powell, Louis Farrakhan, Puff Daddy, and other famous black people. They were sorting these people according to what category of blackness they fit in. I was on stage with this thing around my neck for 20 minutes while they did this! I saw no reason whatsoever for my presence on stage.
Another part of the play worth noting is when the characters dream that they can't get into the black section of heaven. The actors come on stage and scream phrases such as: "I'm Black! I ate collard greens! Let me in!"
Too many plays about race simply bombard the audience with concepts that they're already aware of and understand.
Yes, it's true that black men and women have been oppressed, but more needs to be revealed than this in order for a play to be truly effective and engaging in the 21st century.