Theater

In “Smart People,” Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist

by Donald Brown | Mar 29, 2017 10:06 am

T. Charles Erickson Photo Jackson (Sullivan Jones) is a rising surgeon dissatisfied with how he’s treated at work. He knows he’s one of the best on the staff but, as an African-American, he faces demeaning treatment from white superiors who want to keep him down. He’s a good guy though, and operates a clinic on the side for the uninsured.

Brian (Peter O’Connor) is a celebrated sociologist and statistician determined to prove that racism is “hard-wired” in human brains; it’s biological, not sociological, he claims. If true, his findings would sweep aside one of the dearest assumptions of liberal progressives that racial bias is learned and thus can be unlearned. A white man, he is meeting increasing resistance from the authorities in his field. Oh, and his students, not without reason, think he’s an arrogant prick.

Ginny (Ka-Ling Cheung) is a psychologist and researcher who “identifies strongly” as Asian-American, which, we assume, means she doesn’t want to be seen either as white or as an immigrant.

Valerie (Tiffany Nichole Greene) is an African-American actress recently graduated from an MFA program, suffering the indignity of auditions. First it’s for the minor role of Portia in Julius Caesar. Then for a stereotyped “mamie” role in some piece of drivel. She can get prickly whenever someone — even another African-American like Jackson — makes remarks she deems racist.

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Does “Assassins” Walk A Tightrope Or Hang From It?

by Brian Slattery | Mar 24, 2017 7:49 am

Carol Rosegg Photo John Wilkes Booth stands in the center of the stage, flanked by the presidential assassins and would-be presidential assassins whofollow him in a thin line of carnage stretching from 1865 to 1981.

“Everybody’s got the right to be happy,” he sings.

The stage and tone are set, half carnival midway, half dinner theater, as these historical figures— Charles Guiteau, who killed James Garfield in 1881; Leon Czolgosz, who killed William McKinley in 1901; Giuseppe Zangara, who tried to kill Franklin Roosevelt in 1933; Samuel Byck, who tried to kill Richard Nixon in 1974; Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, who made separate attempts on Gerald Ford’s life in 1975; and John Hinkley, who shot Ronald Reagan in 1981 — mingle together in a theatrical present. A minute or so later, they’re all singing together: “Everyone’s got the right to their dreams.”

There’s a glaring exception to that list, of course. But you know it’s coming.

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“Smart People” Invade Library

by Lucy Gellman | Mar 21, 2017 7:53 am | Comments (1)

Shakespearian actress Valerie Johnson was on a gurney, blood trickling from a gash on her face onto her corset. After sustaining a backstage injury, she’d waited three hours for a medical professional.

When Dr. Jackson Moore showed up, Johnson assumed he was a nurse — because he was black. Moore, in return, assumed she’d been Johnson had been beaten — because she was black, too. 

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Monkey See, Monkey Do

by Lucy Gellman | Mar 1, 2017 2:35 pm | Comments (1)

Courtesy NHTC It takes a moment to realize that Trevor, sulking and dressed as an overgrown teenager in a T-shirt and sweats, is actually a 200-pound chimpanzee.

At first, he just seems like the former. He has taken his mother’s car without her permission, and shows no remorse as he drops the keys onto the counter, and sinks into the sofa.

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Immigrant Tale Turns Timely

by Donald Brown | Mar 1, 2017 1:05 pm

T. Charles Erickson Photo With immigration a hot political issue, stories about the ways of life of immigrants become more than sentimental evocations of how newly arrived people managed here in the past. Such family histories, as featured in Meghan Kennedy’s new play Napoli, Brooklyn, at the Long Wharf Theatre through March 12, should make us aware of how diverse are the cultural backgrounds covered by the term “American.” That diversity undermines any right of one ethnicity to lay claim to that term more than another. Almost everyone has ancestors who suffered to get here and to stay here, and the American Dream has seemed to promise that this country would find room for all.

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“A New America” Speaks

by Adam Matlock | Feb 17, 2017 9:14 am

In one of several extraordinary moments in Thursday’s performance of Collective Consciousness Theatre’s Stories of a New America — a play being performed this weekend at Fair Haven’s Collective Consciousness Theater — all the members of the cast addressed the audience, talking about the moment of realization about being in a new place — because they “could hear the quiet — no bombs, no bullets, no shelling, no militia.”

It illustrated one extreme of the refugee experience, the type often overlooked in the vigorous debate surrounding current events. By choosing to focus the script on anecdotes and observations like this, the cast and company gave the full house a number of quiet moments, where rigorous political jargon could be forgotten for a moment to make space for empathy.

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SNL Designer Keeps Long Wharf Set Simple

by Brian Slattery | Feb 16, 2017 4:13 pm

Brian Slattery Photo On Wednesday — the day before Long Wharf Theatre’s Feb. 16 opening of Napoli, Brooklyn — the year 1960 invaded the theater’s lobby. There was a rack of clothes straight from the era, a textile time warp amid the lobby’s sleek architecture. Two lamps. A chair. Against the far wall was a cart that had three phones in different colors, all with rotary dials and receivers with cords. Potted plants. A statue of the Virgin Mary.

Inside the theater, a dozen crew members in hard hats were putting the final touches on the set. A backdrop showed a row of brownstones. A huge sign hung from the ceiling that read “Duffy Meats.” Also suspended from the ceiling was a large circular stained-glass window, now off to stage right, but looking like it could be moved to the center any time. An old streetlamp hung over the stage like a sentinel. But for a play that switches scenes often, from an apartment to a butcher shop to a factory to a church, the stage itself was remarkably bare. There was a vintage stove and countertop. A bed with a nightstand. A table and chairs. A wooden door in its frame, on wheels, with no wall around it. It could all be moved, all be repurposed, and it was the culmination of months of planning, conversation, design, and construction.

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