Review: The Colored Museum
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog’s Off-Off-But-Actually-On-Broadway Theater critic Matt Schantz reviews the semester’s first Black Box production:
As the lights went up in the Lerner Black Box theater, Rebecca Clark, CC ’13, invited the audience aboard the Celebrity Slave Ship and instructed them to fasten their shackles. The audience tensed, unsure if they should laugh or cringe. Much of the Black Theatre Ensemble’s production of The Colored Museum treads this line between comedic and grim, to great effect.
The Colored Museum, written by George C. Wolfe, tells the story of Black America’s struggle with its identity through a series of 10 satirical vignettes. The scenes range in length, style, and tone, and the three student directors do an excellent job pacing them. Slower pieces, such as the haunting “A Secret Soldier,” are couched between more comedic, punchy scenes. The entire play runs a little over an hour, making each vignette short and sweet.
The set is minimal; most scenes are adorned with little more than a boxes or a table. Costumes are more elaborate and just as effective, doing no more than contextualizing their respective characters. The lighting is simple. This leaves the audience to focus on the play’s greatest facets- the strong performances by each of its 12 actors and stellar directing.
The Colored Museum’s best moments lie in the extremes of the tragicomic spectrum. Jessica Johnson, CC ’11, and Ann-Kathryne Mills, CC ’14, had the audience in stitches with their sassy banter as two wigs in “The Hairpiece”- a feat all the more impressive considering their bodies were obscured, leaving them to act with only their inflection and facial expressions. Walter Jean-Jaques, CC ’14, provided another comedic highlight with his animated romp about stage as the caricature of an extremely disgruntled man.
Jonathan Dunn, SEAS ’11, acted the play’s most serious solo roles excellently and gave The Colored Museum a solemn core. In “Soldier with a Secret” his face was lit harshly from above as he haunted the audience with a war story. His final whispered lines elicited shivers. Tipsily toeing about the stage as Miss Roj, in “The Gospel According to Miss Roj,” he delivered a disturbing soliloquy on gay black culture spiced with just enough humor. Though less active than the other scenes in the play, Jonathan’s scenes kept the audience entranced with his mastery of voice and pace.
Excellent student acting makes The Colored Museum’s dark humor shine. Whether looking for satirical commentary on black culture or just great student acting, look no further. Catch the show today at 2 P.M. or 8 P.M. in the Lerner Black Box. Tickets are available at the TIC.