A cheerful shock of “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” which opened Wednesday evening on Broadway, is that it’s way more entertaining than its portentous and literary-sounding title would counsel.
What you anticipate to resemble a guide from a faculty syllabus really will get stomach laughs and a tear or two. And at 90 minutes, the present is just not a second too lengthy or quick.
Keenan Scott II’s new play on the Golden Theatre, with refreshing heat, offers us what it guarantees: the interior musings of a group of New York black males.
These usually pleasant, sometimes combative, at all times partaking guys stay in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood, the place barbershops scrape by as Whole Foods thrives and luxurious condos are eyed with suspicion and envy by longtime residents.
90 minutes. At the Golden Theatre, 252 W. forty fifth St.
With its contentious BK setting and poetic language, “Thoughts” can come throughout as a Spike Lee joint that has no affiliation to Spike Lee. That’s a good factor.
The males’s names within the script are Passion (Luke James), Love (Dyllón Burnside), Lust (Da’Vinchi), Happiness (Bryan Terrell Clark), Anger (Tristan “Mack” Wilds), Depression (Forrest McClendon) and Wisdom (Esau Pritchett) — don’t fear, they don’t name one another that — and their monickers pair with their ages. The 20-year-old is obsessive about no-strings intercourse, whereas the lost man in his mid-30s finds life more and more exhausting to bear as payments pile up.
And that’s what’s most profitable about Scott’s writing — his potential to be each street-corner particular and common on the identical time. Find me a 35-year-old who can’t relate to debt and purposelessness. (OK, go away Lady Gaga out of it.)
Scott additionally makes the purpose that not each particular person’s life expertise on this nabe is identical. Happiness simply moved to a fabulous high-rise house together with his boyfriend and feels ostracized from his group as a result of he’s homosexual and makes good money.
“Why is struggle synonymous with being black?” he asks.
As Depression, McClendon hits dwelling the toughest. The character shares fancy grocery retailer aisles to assist assist his brother, and all day he’s compelled to behave chipper for whiny prospects who can’t discover the kombucha.
“Tired of living. Terrified of dying,” he says. Ouch.
McClendon is an particularly fascinating actor to observe. The performer, who was final on Broadway a decade in the past within the shattering Kander and Ebb musical “The Scottsboro Boys,” jumps from emotional excessive to emotional excessive like a child stomping in puddles. In an immediate, he’s mad, shy, tickled or piercingly awkward.
Wisdom, in the meantime, is an African immigrant in his 60s who runs the block’s barbershop, and the magnetic Pritchett lends the play a grounding ethical authority.
Not the whole lot works in Scott’s drama. Some scenes really feel rapidly written and don’t join full-throatedly to the large image. Anger, as an example, is a faculty basketball coach and delivers a monologue wherein he’s annoyed that one of his gamers already has an endorsement deal — and a diamond-studded watch — per the brand new NCAA guidelines.
Ripped from the headlines? Yes. Believably dealt with? No.
Anger’s later speech about his personal failed b-ball career, half of a crescendo to an emotional ending, is extra highly effective and fleshes out the character higher.
At occasions I needed director Steve Broadnax III’s staging, set within the shadow of a billboard on which many places are projected, was a tad extra polished. Characters’ entrances and exits really feel arbitrary and the stage might be used extra dynamically. But — you already know what? — too many reveals nowadays are being polished by auteurs till they’re vague, textureless blobs. Many a modern, ultra-bright British import is responsible of that offense.
It is sensible that a present about scrappy, lovable folks bought a scrappy, lovable manufacturing.