Written and Directed by Keenan M. Scott II
Produced by Noisy Tenants Productions
Part of the 2015 Frigid New York Festival
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 3.7.15
The Kraine Theatre, 85 East 4th Street
by Eleanor J. Bader on 2.28.15
Photo by Noisy Tenants.
BOTTOM LINE: The many ways that racism impacts young African American men makes this an important, if not fully realized, production.
Five men embody eight archetypes – Anger, Depression, Despair, Happiness, Love, Lust, Passion, and Wisdom – in Keenan M. Scott’s Thoughts of a Colored Man on a Day When the Sun Set Too Early. One by one, each takes center stage to expound on the indignities he’s faced, sometimes at the hands of white people and sometimes from within the Black community itself. The stories have been told before. There’s the ex con who can’t get a job; the middle-class guy who’s derided for “acting white;” the athlete who is discarded by his team after his knees give out; the shopper who is followed around by suspicious salesclerks; the boy whose mother was impregnated by a rapist; the sexual lothario; and the son raised without a dad. Other stock characters include hustlers and men trapped in low-wage jobs by circumstances beyond their control, from family troubles to a lack of opportunity. What’s more, several of the men Scott showcases are appallingly unschooled, knowing nothing about either Africa or the brave U.S. activists who continue to oppose racism and fight for equality and racial justice. All told, it’s a hearty mix, ably acted by the ensemble.
Indeed, most of the monologues are beautifully poetic. Some, however, are heavy-handed, feeling more like lectures about the evils of race hatred than heart-felt expositions of lived experiences. In addition, the omission of gay men of African descent is troubling; by casting all eight prototypes as heterosexual, Thoughts of a Colored Man unnecessarily limits the range of Scott’s beloved community.
In addition, because the play was written in 2007 there is no mention of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Trayvon Martin, or Tamir Rice. It’s an odd omission in a play about Black manhood and simultaneously limits the play’s reach and potential power. A few updated scenes to incorporate the untimely demise of these young African Americans – and the large-scale protests their deaths triggered -- would bring the play into the here-and-now and make it more relevant and timely. That said, the play is nonetheless worthwhile.
Shortly after penning Thoughts of a Colored Man, the clearly-gifted Keenan Scott II told an interviewer that he was inspired to begin writing his play after watching a 2007 production of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. Shange’s influence is obvious, both in terms of this piece's structure and content. This is not necessarily a problem, but it’s now time for Scott to find his own unique voice. Needless to say, there is far more to be said about the ways race, class, and gender diverge, collide, and impact everyday life in the US of A.
(Thoughts of a Colored Man on a Day When the Sun Set Too Early plays at The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street, through March 7, 2015. Remaining performances are Monday March 2 at 10:30PM; Tuesday March 3 at 5:30PM; and Saturday March 7 at 6:40PM. Tickets are $16, $12 for students, seniors, and veterans. For tickets and more information visit www.horsetrade.info.)