Am I Black Enough, Yet

  • blackenough.jpgAm I Black Enough, Yet?                    
  • Written by Clinton Johnston
  • Directed by George Grant
  • Produced by Charter Theater with the Hamner Theatre
  • Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson

This creative script tackles sensitive, poignant, hilarious even bizarre issues involving race and race relations.  A cast of five lightening quick actors pop into a variety of roles, improv style, and rip roar through scenes that will induce chuckles, bursts of laughter, stunned silence, or even painful acknowledgment of the fractured life scenes depicted on stage.  Written in George C. Wolfe’s Colored Museum type of humor and style, a kind of Wolfe-lite, Am I Black Enough, Yet? has just enough bite to make a point without puncturing, posturing, or preaching. 

The talented ensemble brings a magnetic energy to the script, which adds a fun punch.  They all work seamlessly together, totally at ease with each other and the quirky humor.  They’ve all just come off of a tour  and it shows – they are quick, agile, and comfortable enough with the material to enjoy the ride. 

And what a roller coaster ride it is.  After a rousing bit of ‘Shaft’ and the bad-mother-shut-yo’-mouth rendition with just a whiff of that bad-assed 70′s score, the cast makes everybody black for the evening, or “uber” African American if that’s how you walked in the door.  Clinton Johnston’s writing takes on the funky beat of Parliament-Funkadelic’s George Clinton as he tackles aspects of racial identity, self awareness, pride and prejudice.  Whether giving tips on “What everybody should know to be fully black,” or re-telling four “off color” jokes in the spirit of Moms Mabley, whose picture is projected on the back screen, or Richard Prior, Johnston’s scathing wit is full frontal and provocative in keeping it real.

The playwright pokes fun at the zany side of multiculturalism and hits a confident stride deconstructing hip-hop terminology in an absolutely hilarious “International Slang Council,” sure to be an audience fave.  The cast members shine in this bit as they enter one by one, each with his/her own signature physical swagger and vernacular depicting characters straight out  of ‘de hood, voting to accept or reject slang terms.  Matthew Eisenberg proves that he is more than “the white guy” in the group as he totally melts into his slo-eyed character’s shuffling delivery with absolute consistency and charm.  He contrasts with his female counterpart, bright-eyed Brittney K. Sweeney, who is jack-rabbit quick with rapid-fire, flawless elocution, pouncing through her characters like the ever-ready bunny on speed.  She’s a gem.

Cute and likeable Paige Hernandez is consistently appealing introducing several of the segments and rousing the audience to participate.  Only Paige is plucky enough to show her steel-edged core when she admonishes white women for taking her man, trifling though he is.  Edward Daniels delivers a poignant monolog about the renowned children’s book illustrator Ezra Jack Keats, who from his loving and vibrant images of blacks you’d never guess was the white son of Polish immigrants.  And then there is David Lamont Wilson, back on stage after years of toiling in sound design, which he also did for this show.  Wilson helps balance the bouncy young cast with the gravitas of being just a few years older, several seasons wiser, and with a bit of life’s lessons just starting to show.  His careful rendition of the black ex-Patriot living in Paris circa 1970′s, being bestowed an NAACP Image Award is heartfelt and touching.

Director Grant makes full use of the simple two-level set (designer is Erin Powers), moving the cast playfully along the front or snuggled intimately into the corners.  The visual projections are nicely done and contribute significantly to the production. 

Developed long before the current hysteria over racial identities,,the comedy  Am I Black Enough, Yet? raises important issues, without bringing unnecessary baggage. 

  • Running Time:  Nearly 2 hours, one intermission
  • Where: Theatre on the Run, 3700 S. Four Mile Run Dr., Arlington, VA
  • When: Thru May 3rd, Thurs – Saturday 8pm;  Saturday Sunday matinee at 3:00 pm.
    Tickets: $20- 25
  • Info:  Call 202-333-7009 or consult the website.

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