THOUGHTS ON THOUGHTS OF A COLORED MAN

thoughts-of-a-colored-man-feature

 

Here is one of those Broadway productions that may well make you wish that the Tonys bestowed a Best Ensemble Award.

All seven actors, under the superb direction of Steve H. Broadnax III, do Keenan Scott II’s THOUGHTS OF A COLORED MAN quite proud.

Even mentioning them out of alphabetical order would seem to suggest a favoritism that must not exist. Thus, all hail Dyllon Burnside, Bryan Terrell Clark, Da’Vinchi, Luke James, Forrest McClendon, Esau Pritchett and Tristan Mack Wilds

They offer the best kind of acting: the type that doesn’t resemble acting at all.

As for the play, Scott’s thoughts bring to mind two other properties – not because THOUGHTS resembles or imitates those, but because of the similar positive impact that it promises.

In 1959, when A RAISIN IN THE SUN opened, many whites walking into the theater didn’t want African-Americans for neighbors. After spending some time with the Younger family’s struggles, they weren’t nearly as adamant.

Then in 1975, BUBBLING BLACK SUGAR took us to Harlem, an area of town that many Caucasians wouldn’t go near in fear for their lives. Rosetta LeNoire realized her goal of showing uptown as a fun and entertaining place; many white attendees now had a new view of the area.

Granted, despite these two shows, Caucasians’ anxiety about Blacks hasn’t been totally defused. (Would that it could have been!) But THOUGHTS will put additional important thoughts into white audiences’ heads, as Scott and Company show us the commonalities that all human beings have. If the Oct. 14 audience was any indication, Blacks will have a great time, too, in recognizing apt representations of themselves. 

Scott urges us to “pay attention and listen real close.” He’s so skillful a playwright that it’s an easy request to honor. Most of the thoughts are expressed externally in conversations, but some are internal monologues delivered directly to the audience. 

They’re mostly experiences that many of us have had, no matter to what race we belong. Meeting the parents of the person you’ve been dating is always a nerve-wracking experience, but more so for a Black young man in the home of a Caucasian young miss. 

There are arguments about sports teams and religion. One young man writes poetry to express his feelings while his friend urges him to use his words to seduce young women.

Here’s the social worker who loves his occupation mostly because he understands the importance of it. Then there’s the basketball coach who is just as much a life coach to his charges. He knows that the term “student athlete” places much too much emphasis on the latter word, so he wants to make sure young men score in life in case they don’t score on the gridiron or basketball court. 

We see one who has: a Black man who’s seized the opportunity to succeed in the world of finance and has done just that. He’s happy, elegant, sophisticated and the owner of an island.

(At least in his kitchen, which is good enough.)

And yet, he also expresses that it’s lonely at the top-cat’s position.

Part of the reason he got there was because he “had a father living at home.” He can’t help noticing that when he tells this to some people, they’re automatically surprised. 

Despite this achiever, Scott doesn’t, you should pardon the expression, whitewash by suggesting that this is the norm among today’s Blacks. A low-level worker at Whole Foods has an M.I.T. education, but this is the best job he can find. Unlucky Blacks such as he instead live in a neighborhood where “the fathers are non-existent and mothers are young” and where “you walk only if you come from there.” One young man learns how he was conceived and is aghast at being “the son of a rapist.” There are Caucasians who will know how he feels.

Matters do become amusing when three men get into a face-off where they challenge each other in a “We were so poor” contest. Many additional laughs are had at the local barbershop, although owner Joe makes sure that the customers don’t quite let down their hair. He’s created a swear jar in which those using profanity must insert a dollar for each offensive word uttered. 

There is, however, one word he won’t allow for any amount of money.

(You may be surprised to hear what it is.)

For some blacks, The American Dream eventually gets an unwelcome wake-up call. ASSASSINS informed us that there was “Another National Anthem.” This play offers another Pledge of Allegiance, and we see why.

Scott makes room to show us a not-so-common instance where a woman’s father and her husband get along nicely. Both are anticipating the birth of a child, and when that happens and the new daddy holds the infant in his arms, Scott has him say a line that’s both beautiful and truthful: “You’ll be teaching me things about life.”

Scott’s choosing to include the word “colored” in his title may baffle some. Certainly in recent decades, it’s been deemed retro and politically incorrect. Perhaps Scott feels that, just as the gays have appropriated the word “queer” and changed it from an adjectival epithet to a matter-of-fact noun, he can do the same with “colored.” 

Whatever the case, this, the performances and everything else about THOUGHTS OF A COLORED MAN offer much food for thought.