Friday, October 8, 2010

Revival Of "The Colored Museum" Is Theatrical Tour-de-Force

A revival of George C. Wolfe's satirical stage play, The Colored Museum, began a three-night engagement yesterday at the South Oxford Space in Downtown Brooklyn.

Directed by Bill Johnson, a founder of the American Theatre Of Harlem and the Act Now Foundation, which produced this play. First produced in 1986, The Colored Museum is a darkly comedic look at Black life, with references to the ideas and issues that have grown up with the Black community, and how the world at large impacts its mores and contemporary culture. With a "nothing-is-sacred" approach, Johnson and his ensemble cast deliver an often hysterically funny performance, but not without a message about what's really happening with people of color. In a series of skits, a wide range of themes are explored, from "good hair", to the need to "put away" your blackness to succeed in a world demanding homogeneity.

In The Gospel According To Miss Roj, FranCisco Vegas brings the house down with his gender-non-conforming momologue which cracks wise at the often hypocritical demands of Black life, and his mannerisms and ad-libs make it an unforgettable scene. In Symbiosis, Michael Joseph Stith and Rafael Moreno look at how people of color must become smiling, corporate robots without cultural identity in order to succeed. Sharply done, it asks pointedly whether we can ever truly divorce ourselves from our personal histories. Hair Piece, delightfully acted by Angelique Chapman, Nihara Nichelle, and Jasmine Taylor, is a tongue-in-cheek look at the hair issue which bedevils so many women of color. Rounding out this excellent cast are Bea Jaye, Soyini Crenshaw, and Melissa Gibbs.

It's not easy to produce a revival that captures the essence and flair of the original play on which it is based, but Johnson and his cast pull it off beautifully. Before a standing-room crowd, their performances were polished and lively, and the little touches, like Vegas' visual gags between scenes, added just the right amount of joie de vivre that gave the show its playful, lighthearted tone. It's readily apparent that Johnson is able to renovate a 25-year-old play, making it accessible and relevant to 21st-century audiences. I award the show four stars, as much for the caliber of its production as for the work of its cast. The Colored Museum will run two more nights, tonight and tomorrow, at the South Oxford Space, 138 South Oxford Street in Brooklyn. Tickets for this 90-minute show are $15, and the theater can be reached by taking a 2,3,4,5,B,D,N,Q, or R train to Atlantic Avenue. Performances begin at 8 PM, with the doors open at 7:15. Go spend an evening in the Museum, and you'll find it worth the trip.

Pics from last night's performance:

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