Monday, May 17, 2010

In Dramatizing the Fight for Equality, 'The Good Negro' is Only Fair

Theater Review

The Good Negro
a play by Tracey Scott Wilson
Goodman Theatre, Chicago
Thru June 6, 2010

As a fictionalization of the civil rights movement, centered in Birmingham, Alabama in 1962, Tracey Scott Wilson's The Good Negro should've been a highly-charged powder keg of a play.

But with what felt like too many scenes over the course of 2-1/2 hours, the recent work directed at Goodman by Chuck Smith never really crackled. Though not quite a dud, it just didn't feel especially compelling, insightful or even all that dramatic.

The central three characters were fictional civil rights leaders who despite their noble cause were flawed men who battled not only Southern bigotry but also each other. The play might have felt more urgent if it kept its focus on the trio, but six other characters and an unseen child shared plot time and made the show more talky and didactic than razor sharp throughout.

Not every play can be fantastic and in spite of a worthy subject matter and solid performances throughout, The Good Negro was only fair.

Maddeningly, as the show was within 5 minutes of its conclusion, a cell phone with an incredibly annoying ringtone rang. And rang and rang and rang. 

I felt bad for the actors, who assuredly could hear it onstage. While the play wasn't as good as I hoped, the performers and audience certainly deserved better than to have some idiot forget (or choose not to) turn off his or her phone, and then fail to hear it as it continued to ring.

Talk about a really disappointing ending.

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