I apologize to my six of so readers for being MIA, but what can you do? I got a few things for you coming up.
Recently I saw a play called “Race is a Lie” by River Jackson and starring Genevieve Jessee as Black, Kevin Copps as White and Amielynn Abellera as Other. I had a limited run here in SF and it was definitely worth catching.
The basic premise is about two cops, one older, male and black and the other is younger, female and black. Their case revolves around the murder of a small homeless child and their apprehension and questioning of the child’s mother, who’s race is somewhat ambiguous.
While the characters certainly touched on all issues with race as well as gender, age and authority, they do it all in rhyming verse. The delivery is so smooth and dialog written so naturally, that you barely notice it. I wondered if this was similar to how it must have been to see a Shakespearian play — with an intimate knowledge of the language and not getting hung up on it. As you can do doubt guess, the was exceedingly complex.
That complexity made it a very enjoyable experience, but if the goal was to impart some knowledge, the message was a bit garbled and confusing. The arguments and discussions between the two cops could have represented race tensions, gender tension and personality differences. No doubt this was the intended effect since even race issues are never really black and white. However sticking with the theme of this blog, I’ve managed to tease out a few of the race related issues brought up in this play:
Mr. White was very much an empathic white man character. Knowledgeable about race, despite his whiteness and added his view of the Civil Rights Movement in a different light because he was there. He was also sort of an insensitive know-it-all. Like me!
Ms. Black played up some of the stereotypes of being black and angry and being on her period. I thought those portion were a bit weak and there wasn’t too much to contradict her stereotypes. The entitlement the character felt to have Martin Luther King Day off from work (the day the play takes place) seemed a bit trite and forced. But together with Mr. White, they were the classic good cop/bad cop, which Black being the latter.
Other was perhaps the most interesting character. Being homeless and possibly mentally ill, she was portrayed as not only racially ambiguous, but also reality ambiguous. When was she flashbacking and when was she there with the cops. Was she an idiot, or more clever than you’d think. I find it interesting that the only race she claimed was two different tribes of Native Americans, possibly since Native Americans are either all mixed up these days, or virtually fantasy due to their rarity and genocidal decimation, thus leaving the viewer to decide.
All in all, the highlights of the play were certainly the rhyming verse and the complex portrayal of race and life in modern San Francisco. However, I felt that since there was no clear message, it might not have the most broad appeal.