“White Like Me”: Privilege and Politics (or Lack Thereof)

Puppet Showplace Theater

Photo credit: Puppet Showplace Theater; childhood relics.

Presented by Puppet Showplace Theater
Written, Directed & Performed by Paul Zaloom

October 21 & 22, 2016
32 Station Street
Brookline, MA
Puppet Showplace Theater on Facebook
Puppets at Night

Review by Travis Manni

(Boston, MA) As a young, gay, white male, I try to be aware of my privileges. I experience them a great deal on a daily basis, and what I wanted White Like Me to do was remind me of this in a way that was both poignant and humorous. And while I did have a good time at this show, I was surprised that only the latter turned out to be true.

White Like Me is a linear, yet episodic, cluster of scenes with the vague through line of a man called White Man who decides to travel from the outer reaches of the universe to earth and share his amazing white-man culture. While on earth, he interacts with various caricatures that represent cultures that the White Man identifies as alien. After traveling across the world, he spreads his influence without ever stopping to think about the impact he might be leaving behind.

Besides his witty humor, writer, director, and performer Paul Zaloom also excels with his set designs and puppetry. With just a small box on stage, and a camera playing a live feed onto a larger projector screen, Zaloom was able to manipulate everyday objects to create environments and characters that were able to fill the large space of the theatre, despite their miniature sizes.

Photo credit: Puppet Showplace Theater; a man with his puppet.

Photo credit: Puppet Showplace Theater; a man with his puppet.

Zaloom’s voice work is also a wonderful craft in itself, luring the audience into this fantastical world of puppets. I never once doubted that the people he created were real. His improvisational skills were as sharp as his humor, and while it was clear that there were unscripted moments and bloopers, I trusted Zaloom to carry the audience for these brief pauses and his confidence was worthy of my trust.

While I did bust out laughing on many occasions, White Like Me is a comedy only and has almost no political agenda. It doesn’t ever seem to initiate, facilitate, or engage conversation. The title, though apt, is misleading and anybody planning to attend a production of the show should buckle in for a funny show that exists solely to make the audience laugh. While this may be White Like Me’s biggest downfall, along with its overall plot that slowly fades, until vanishing completely, into nonexistence, it felt good to laugh at the oblivious antics of White Man. He is quite foolish.

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