Thank You Capt. Obvious: “appropriate”

Photo by Nile Hawver / Nile Scott Shots

Photo by Nile Hawver / Nile Scott Shots

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Co.
Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara
Fight choreo by Angie Jepson
 
Sept. 12 – Oct. 11, 2015
Stanford Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
SpeakEasy on Facebook
 
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston, MA) It should not take a white person to teach another white person that racism exists. And yet, the case almost always is that white people can’t simply trust the experiences of black people. No, frequently a white person has to verify from other white people that POCs across the color spectrum aren’t lying for attention or handouts. Racism exists. It isn’t going away just because a group of old white men decided they don’t want to fight against it anymore (see the US govt.).

Enter: Jacobs-Jenkins’ appropriate. The Lafayette family has returned to their crumbling Arkansas plantation to hash out Father Lafayette’s hoarding problem, loans, and bigotry. Childhood was hard on them and everyone feels entitled to an apology they aren’t going to get. This entitlement wrapped in bitterness seeped in brittle pain results in violent arguments instead of the reunion they were hoping for.

appropriate is a slow-motion lynch mob climaxing in a near murder and culminating in irreparable hurt. Jacobs-Jenkins starts us off with smart, funny dialogue that misleads his audience with its triviality. He isn’t simply setting us up with a family scenario of pathetically unkind, bickering white people. Rather, he’s showing us that appropriate is self-aware on a near meta-theatre level. The true magic of this play unravels as the actors, crew and playwright reveal how deeply ingrained racism is in western society by enacting it in the lives of this family. The actors are, of course, in on the funny, and the severity of Jacobs-Jenkins’ metaphors. Jacobs-Jenkins is brilliant. White people are a shameful mess (when it comes to racism).

SpeakEasy, as always, has delivered an exceptional production. Here are the elements that make it exceptionally good:

  1. O’Gara’s pacing is near perfect. The cast doesn’t waste any time. They say their piece and move the action forward in order to convey Jacobs-Jenkins message. We get a beautiful balance of storytelling and morality.
  2. Alex Pollock as the neanderthal hippy Franz is a sight to behold. Pollock wear sFranz like a well-tailored suit that he’s deconstructed to misfit on purpose. He’s made Franz the most sympathetic, sincere character of the family and he’s still the most unforgivable. His counterpart Ashley Risteen as River is a more compassionate, sober Janice from The Electric Mayhem. They make a charismatic team.
  3. Jepson’s fight choreography during the lynch mob is epically hardcore. It is hilarious and easily the most punk rock thing I’ve seen in ages. This fight scene’s violence is lyrical in its devastation.
  4. The work of the tech crew during intermission and the final scenes is exemplary. They are efficient, hardworking and dedicated.

There is absolutely no excuse for treating anyone as less than human. It is possible to be good to some while being terrible to others. The Lafayettes saw Daddy Lafayette as a beloved patriarch when that was only part of his truth. For every old white person allowed to wallow in their own bigotry, there are others that have chosen to educate themselves, to be decent to other human beings. Age or upbringing, as is the case in appropriate, is a terrible reason for being an asshole. Let the light shown on white culture in appropriate be a lesson to us.

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