Thoughts of a Colored Man
Can we actually tell how you see yourself based on how much you like it?
By Andrew Andrews
Seven black men start their separate but intertwining days in a Brooklyn neighborhood that’s rapidly changing with the grand openings of Whole Foods and Paris Baguette.
Each man, strong and confident in his own way, allegorically represents the emotion he carries by name:
- Love, the street poet, longs for a woman he can appreciate for more than her appearance.
- Lust, his childhood best friend, only seems to care about how quickly he can get a woman into bed.
- Wisdom, the barber, commands a dollar for his swear jar from all of his offending patrons, and insists that everyone who enters his shop be treated with dignity and respect.
- Anger trims hair alongside him, coaching basketball on the side while demanding that his players work as hard at their academics as they do on the court.
- Passion awaits the arrival of his second child, having suffered the lost of his first born.
- Depression, a clerk at the new supermarket, laments the change in his neighborhood while shrugging off the tremendous opportunity that he sacrificed to care for his family.
- Happiness, the well-to-do outsider, loves his new neighborhood and desperately wants to fit in, despite having nothing more in common with them than the color of his skin.
Blending dialog, slam poetry and humor interwoven with social commentary and the occasional spiritual interlude, Thoughts of a Colored Man depicts their everyday lives below an enormous and ever-changing highway billboard with the always-present watermark “COLORED” in large, uppercase type.
Combining elements of classical theatre with a unique delivery that suits the archetype personalities of men who’ve spent their lives in the neighborhood, this play is sure to be a hit among those hungry for new voices and eager to find the next big thing on Broadway since Hamilton.
Subtle suggestions about the importance of growing up with two nurturing parents, and valuing strength of character above shallow appearances, are tempered by charming personalities with a genuine sense of humor and a matter-of-fact acknowledgment of human nature.
Although one of the actors playing a native Brooklynite had a very unconvincing and constantly-fluctuating accent, the rest of the cast delivered their stereotypical roles with perfection.
My partner enjoyed the performance a lot more than I did; I suspect that growing up in a gentrifying neighborhood made it easier to relate to the characters and their environment.
Personally, I felt that the lack of a main plot made it difficult to feel invested in any of the stories. If the young woman next to us who spent more time looking at her phone than the performance is any indication, I wasn’t alone in being disconnected.
The minimalist set with its looming, life-sized billboard was beautiful and impressive, but I believe a more traditional design depicting street-level Brooklyn and the neighborhood barber shop would do a much better job of drawing the audience into the setting.
I can’t imagine anyone leaving Thoughts of a Colored Man would consider the experience anything less than “okay.” But as evidenced by the difference in opinion between my partner and me, I suspect that how much you enjoy the production says more about how you see yourself than it does about what you’ll see on the stage.
Andrew Andrews attended Thoughts of a Colored Man at Golden Theatre in Manhattan on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 @ 8:00pm to write this review.
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