Toni Morrison’s Work and ‘Unapologetic Blackness’ Serve Rebuke to Trump’s Racist America

“What narratives is the United States, under the ‘leadership’ of Donald Trump generating now? Separated immigrant families, children in cages, unarmed people killed by a militarized police force, a proliferation of weapons that turns any lone gunman with hurt feelings into an instant mass murderer. The policies and products of an administration that leverages congressionally unchecked power to make miserable the lives of the many, in service of one very large, frail, white male ego.

If she hadn’t left us this past Monday morning, how would Morrison have written about the latest 2019 appearance of the ‘dark, psychic force,’ that Marianne Williamson identified as underpinning America’s failure as a cultural melting pot?

While we’ll never have new words from the Nobel Laureate, we can be grateful for those she left to help us confront the racism corroding our national soul. In December 1993, she warned a Stockholm, Sweden audience of ‘infantile heads of state’ who speak only ‘to those who obey, or in order to force obedience…Oppressive language does more than represent violence…It is violence.’

We still have an opportunity to do as Morrison did, to move the lives of the asylum-seeking immigrant, the impoverished, imprisoned and powerless away from the margins and toward the center of the story of Donald Trump’s cruel, racist America. Though we’ve collectively lacked the author’s urgent persistence to tell the truth about who we are, it’s never too late to start.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

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Just Chilling

The cast of ‘Just Chilling.’ (Photo: Pat Radke)

Just Chilling contains several original ideas, including subtle but clear allegorical allusions to the chaos engulfing our current national politics via an illiterate, ill-informed Washington zombie of the living variety. Are there more substantial community dangers in pretending everything is business as usual, even as people’s metaphorical and literal faces are being eaten? Do we owe each other unvarnished truth? These are weighty questions, and academic nuance one might not expect from a comedy staged in a theatre space best known for improv. The laudable effort from Mr. Radke to actually say something renders Just Chilling far more interesting than sci-fi trifle.

In the grand tradition of the best psychological horror, a zombie is never seen, nor do bloody figures dragging their decaying carcasses in pursuit of the living appear. Instead, the potential end of days unravels through the conversations and dynamics of its six characters thrown together by crisis as they drink, worry and tear each other apart inside a Gold Coast apartment building.

Thirty-something yuppie couple Rod (Dave Satterwhite) and Lani (Liz Greenwood) reside in the flat where the disparate personalities converge. An entirely separate Pinter-esque play could be made from their toxic relationship, which crackles with resentment, breeched intimacy and smugness. The zombie apocalypse trope does not typically demand this much in the way of character depth, but the audience is better engaged for it.”

Read the full review on The Broadway Blog.

If Mainstream Media Deems This Week a “Good” One for Trump, All Remaining Credibility Is Lost

“With the 2020 election gearing up in earnest and over 70 percent of Americans believing the country is headed in a wrong and dangerous direction, we must demand more ‘truthiness’ from the media. They work for us, the public, not Donald Trump. And guess what? The President doesn’t think much of the journalistic profession anyway. When Fox News commentators claim that Trump is beating the mainstream media at their own game, they’re not wrong.

No matter what certain members of the mainstream media tell us, things are not going well for POTUS 45. It’s in the interest of all to root for the success of the country’s leader of course, but in his particular case, what’s good for Donald Trump and his band of cronies almost always flies in the face of the national interest, the betterment of regular Americans and their families. A ‘good’ week for him is a necessarily bad one for us regular folks. And when the President bumbles and stumbles as he does so often on the national and international stage, the threats to Americans become that much greater.

All of Trump’s ‘winning’ is costing us the environment, international credibility and the lives of immigrants and their children. If the sentient beings that comprise the mainstream media workforce care about the future of our country, they’ll quit handicapping the narrative in favor of the goon who’s happy to bring it all down upon our heads, if it makes him a buck.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Ghost Quartet

Amanda Raquel Martinez in ‘Ghost Quartet.’ (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

“Though the production’s four core performers delivered much of the laboring confusion, it seems unfair to lay blame at their feet. There were several moments during which the cast seemed to be going through the directed motions, as desperate for connection as frustrated audience members. And whether their delivery was vocal, instrumental or both, the team acquits itself well of lyric and song.

I can’t say much about the disjointed snatches of narrative I was able to grasp – a fairytale, an astronomer, some type of omniscient bear possessed of Freddie Krueger-like dream manipulation skill, a subway murder and Edgar Allen Poe. I will admit, however, that I’m still nodding my head to “Any Kind of Dead Person,” and performer Rachel Guth’s energetic, passionate rendering of the song.

However, like so many devotees of occult phenomena, I feel like one or two glimpses of soul aren’t enough. A mind of this world needs more to sustain its interest than solid jams punctuated by illogical, inconsistent and unforgivably dull plotting.

Ghost Quartet runs a mere 90 minutes (no intermission) but it feels so much longer — a theatrical apparition you may hope will soon disappear.”

Read the full review on The Broadway Blog.

The Music Man

The company of Goodman Theatre’s ‘The Music Man.’ (Photo: Liz Lauren)

“Whenever a high-profile theater undertakes the revival of a beloved, oft-staged musical classic, it assumes many risks. Among them is the possibility of the source material failing to connect with a modern audience, or that the given production will fail to say or add anything new. But if there’s one thing Chicago’s artistic community knows about the partnership between Goodman Theatre (SweatThe Winter’s TaleThe Wolves) and Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman, it’s this: neither party shirks a challenge.

Helming her 16th Goodman production, Ms. Zimmerman offers her visionary take on The Music Man, the timeless tale of a con artist who collectively romances a small town in Iowa – and gets the girl. The musical, with book, music and lyrics by Meredith Willson, won five Tony Awards during its original Broadway run in the late 1950s and continues to leave a significant imprint on American pop and musical culture. Broadway will be welcoming its own star-studded version with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Fuster in 2020).

Yet Goodman Theatre’s take on The Music Man is not the fusty fodder of 20th Century summer stock. Ms. Zimmerman, her cast and creative team make this abundantly clear in the production’s utterly magical first few minutes. The experience gave me goosebumps, and that’s no small feat considering the scene’s otherwise routine ubiquity in thousands of local productions.”

Read the full review on The Broadway Blog.

Diverse 2019 MLB All-Star Game Lineup is the Real ‘Salute to America’

“Donald Trump, American President, ever the lover of winning and big business, needs Major League Baseball much more than it needs his racist, anti-immigrant, white supremacy. Another quote from Elk and Moreno bears this out:

“Trump’s fear of getting booed at a baseball stadium led him to skip throwing out the ceremonial first pitch last year. He remains, along with Jimmy Carter, the only president not to throw out a first pitch while in office.”

While baseball may be experiencing somewhat of a general popularity decline among white youth in the United States, the sport has established multi-racial clout, and it’s getting browner all the time. There may be no mention of Donald Trump during next week’s All-Star game, but you can bet it won’t be far from his mind – and itchy, tweeting fingers. If there’s one thing this President hates, it’s being ignored.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

We Are Pussy Riot (Or) Everything is P.R.

(l to r) from left) Alec Phan, Jalyn Greene, Casey Chapman, Stephanie Shum, Emily Nichelson in ‘We Are Pussy Riot (or) Everything is P.R.’ (Photo: Austin Oie)

“By 2012, an institutionally empowered Putin (played here by Red Tape’s Marketing Director, Casey Chapman) was no stranger to taking political prisoners. The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an independent commission of the U.S. Federal Government, publishes a short list of people believed to be jailed for political reasons in Russia today. However, most of these incidents failed to garner the international attention that Pussy Riot captured, turning the ‘band’ into a political lightning rod as well as a mass-consumed piece of performance art.

Why, exactly? The play offers a few surface hypotheses (the camera-ready nature of Pussy Riot’s female rebels, renewed distrust between East and West), but isn’t here to soberly judge history. Its mission is to loudly capture the unifying, energizing spirit of mutiny.

We Are Pussy Riot (or) Everything is P.R. does a commendable job of evoking and corralling the chaos. Director Kate Hendrickson untethers her skilled, diverse cast to utilize every inch of space, as well as every body movement and vocal sound to tell a universal story of civilian pushback against Putin’s bizarre interpretation of the nanny/police state. The work offers high-decibel music, mass digital and traditional media, sketch comedy and more than anything, a love letter to the power of the proletariat.”

Read the full review on The Broadway Blog.