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BWW Review: Jordan E. Cooper's Surrealist Vaudeville AIN'T NO MO' Envisions An African-American Exodus

"Today, we give to the dirt of the earth, our beloved brother and friend, Brother Righttocomplain," Father Freeman announces to the audience at commencement of Jordan E. Cooper's aggressively satirical surrealist vaudeville of African-American experiences, AIN'T NO MO'.

Ain't No Mo'
Marchant Davis and Company
(Photo: Joan Marcus)

Standing before a golden casket and surrounded by agonized mourners wailing with sorrow at his every word, the charismatically authoritative pastor, wonderfully played by Marchant Davis, eulogizes how "Righttocomplain lived a good and fruitful life and was a devoted member to the African-American community," but "was murdered by a recent major event."

It is November 4th, 2008, and Father Freeman and his congregation are convinced that the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States will "mark the death of our suffering as people in this wretched land" and that "after today, we will have no reason to ever walk around with the weight of our ancestors' tears guiding our face down to the ground."

"When the President of these United States is yo n----, yo friend, yo goon, things change," he insists, and on the evening this reviewer attended, when Father Freeman looked out into the audience of The Public Theater's LuEsther Theater and encouraged "every colored person in this room to turn to yo neighbor and say neighbor... The President is my n----," a great deal of viewers, who had already been enraptured by the playwright's words and the actor's performance, joyfully shouted his words back at him.

Of course, the sorrowful layer beneath that absurdist joy is the audience's knowledge that things didn't go as Father Freeman and his congregation expected.

In Cooper's view of the near future, the United States Government is offering free one-way airline tickets so that anyone of "the African Diaspora" may relocate to that continent. All who remain will face "extreme racial transmogrification."

Ain't No Mo'
Jordan E. Cooper
(Photo: Joan Marcus)

Beneath a sign designating gate 1619, the playwright himself appears as Peaches, the tart-tongued, attitude-infused and fabulously styled agent for African-American Airlines, which is handling the final "Reparations Flight."

Peaches appears from time to time to handle the line of last-minute passengers in between a series of vignettes, mostly comical situations that revealing ugly truths.

The playwright cites George C. Wolfe's landmark 1986 play, THE COLORED MUSEUM as a major inspiration, having "brilliantly provoked a dialogue of blackness in America."

Directed in a sleek presentational style by Stevie Walker-Webb, Cooper's play continues the dialogue with scenes such as an on-camera reunion of "The Real Baby Mamas of The South Side," where a white woman formerly known as Rachel (Simone Recasner) has reinvented herself as Rachonda and angers her castmates by calling herself transracial. In another moment, a wealthy African-American family, fully assimilated into European-American culture, encounters the Blackness (Crystal Lucas-Perry) that has escaped from being chained up in their mansion's basement.

In more somber moments, black women serving time in prison are let go to join the forced exodus, and after one (Lucas-Perry) is handed back her possessions from the day she entered, she makes note of the non-material things that are missing.

A woman (Fedna Jacquet) considers having an abortion rather than risk having what happened to the father (Davis) someday happen to her child.

Before the play begins, audience members are invited on stage to write on slips of paper something "that Black folks have given to this country, like style, peanut butter, a reason to exist, every damn thing," and drop them into a travel bag.

That travel bag full of paper helps provide AIN'T NO MO' with a poignant and thoughtful finish to a rowdy and thoughtful theatre piece.

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From This Author Michael Dale