MARCH 19 1999
VOLUME 24, NUMBER 24
THE ARTISTS FORMALLY KNOWN AS OUI BE NEGROES,
Oui Be Negroes, at The
death changes nothing. The battle still rages in improvisation circles.
Is Improv an art form in itself or just a tool for creating more
traditional theater? Both sides of the debate are likely to find plenty
of ammo at the Playground, a venue-not a school-devoted entirely to
Those who think improvisation is, at best, a kind of brainstorming can
leap on a myriad misfires that were part of both the shows I saw. But
there were also sublimely inspired moments of the sort that keep some of
us at least believing in the Holy Grail.
It was thrilling to see Oui Be Negroes--a
mostly African-American Improv troupe headed by Shaun
Landry, who's married to the group's one white
member--create two fully improvised one-acts skewering some of our
culture's sacred cows.
Not all the work was successful, however, the most specific jabs worked
best, such as Cordell Pace's killing caricature of an African-American
preacher. And not all the performers were equally "on" the
night I caught the show. Some faded into the background, notably the
likable Nicole Tinnin, while Landry commandeered the stage a bit too
often, trying to control scenes that would have been funnier if they'd
been allowed to unfold naturally.
Still, this talented, funny troupe proved again and again that they have
something to say and the ability to say it.