NOVEMBER 19 1999
VOLUME 29, NUMBER 8
Be Negroes, at Bailiwick Repertory.
Exploring the latitude
and longitude of "negritude", this latest revue by a primarily
African-American troupe offers comic comments on an endangered heritage.
Eschewing politics, the sketches instead skewer the contradictions of
pop culture and the hypocrisies of history. A television executive (Hans
Summers, the company's token white) offers a lame explanation for the
absence of black characters in the fall lineup: "We forgot". A
newly freed slave (Khristian Leslie) from the Terra Cotta plantation
gleefully finishes the letter begun by his murdered master. A
crack-cocaine promoter (Ronald Ray) touts the belt tightening that an
addiction imposes. An irate customer (Shaun Landry) incensed by the
racist gimcracks at a southern Stucky's attacks one stereotype with
another. And then there's a scary visit to a KKK Mart.
The longer scenes
succeed through sheer detail. Cordell Pace, Ray, and Leslie delight as
veteran jazzmen plotting a comeback as the Unsung Trio. Summers and
Landry wage a war over having a pizza (i.e. a child), and Summers and
Leslie are endearing as black and white childhood chums who chart a
rocky course to the retirement home. Among the comic monologues, Nicole
Tinnin's stands out: she offers a catalog rap of the wonderful candies
you can find in the ghetto. Rooted in good times and bad, such moments
deliver "negritude" in all its colors.