Oh, for the days of Laugh-in and later In Living Color and the ever-popular Saturday Night Live that introduced and continue to present snippets of situation comedy.
Back in the really early days of television (yes, the Stone Age–before color TV) Jack Benny, Red Skelton and others presented sketch comedy to American audiences. And, even before that, radio shows did the same. But from the early radio and b/w TV days, only Amos ‘n Andy presented the black voice (and on the radio, Amos and Andy were white men speaking like black men). Evolution and maturation has changed that with more people of color speaking out and presenting different perspectives.
While these short snapshots are popular on TV, they seldom make it to live theatre. Thank goodness for the Fringe Festival that encourages persons to write and produce shows as they find new venues for their work. “Let Me Explain My Blackness” sets up some really funny skits about black women, what they want, how they feel, how they react, and explain what expectations they have.
While watching, the show brought laughs in a non-hostile way to poke fun at black situations and stereotypes. If written by someone outside the color spectrum, the show would be inflammatory and racially charged. Written and presented by a person of color and from her perspective, the show defines the humor within a community. The creativity of the piece reminds me of Laugh-In and In Living Color.
In “Let Me Explain My Blackness,” this laugh-filled show at the Just Off Broadway Theatre, writer and director Katherene Garry leads her cast of eight other actors through an hour long romp that examines the thoughts of black women through comedy encounters. These dozen snippets poke fun at the stereotypes and provide plenty of laughs for all audiences.
The show is family oriented with a few adult words, but nothing too strong or suggestive. Still, in keeping with old-time comedy, the laughs come from the situation and the actions, not from adult of foul language. That alone moved this comedy to a higher status.
Toward the end of the show, one skit, that I call “Ode to Fried Chicken,” caused me to laugh so hard I had a few tears escape. Yes, some of the sketches are that funny. The cast is very talented and funny. They all understood how to present differing characters and keep the show moving.
“Are you curious about black girl magic? Then sit still, soak this in and simply enjoy. Being a woman is exhausting! Yet, being a black woman is a mix of magic, mystery for many, and confusion for most. This piece of work is filled with various comedy sketches about black women’s growth thru pain and humor. So relax and laugh with us.” (KC Fringe)
When doing a lot of small skits, momentum really matters. Yes, some of the skits could use some polish, but overall “Let Me Explain My Blackness” will make audiences smile. The situations are funny, short, fast-paced, and non-offensive.
The cast is: Tracy Thomas, Makayla Law, Johnny Stone, Hillari Holt, Sarah Elise Menez, Selena Snell, LaSandra Daniels, Denesha Snell. Stage manager is La Tasha James.
The show, “Let Me Explain My Blackness” continues at the Just Off Broadway Theatre. Check the Fringe website for specific times and dates. The show is dedicated to the writer’s father.
Tags: “Let Me Explain My Blackness” review, Just Off Broadway Theatre, Kansas City Fringe Festival, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment