The Chicago Reader
Oui Be Negroes Absolute Negritude Review 1999

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 19 1999
VOLUME 29, NUMBER 8
Oui Be Negroes, at Bailiwick Repertory.
-Lawrence Bommer

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.